NEW BRITAIN - The Common Council got feedback on Mayor Erin Stewartâ€™s $241.5 million budget proposal for the 2017-2018 fiscal year from just five residents at a public hearing Tuesday night.
Those were all the New Britain residents who showed up for the budget public hearing at Smalley Elementary School, which lasted about 15 minutes.
Steven Amato criticized the cityâ€™s reliance on revenue from parking. He said the cost of a ticket for going over your parking meter time limit has greatly increased in recent years. Amato said these tickets now amount to $30, jumping to $90 after seven days.
â€śHow is that not excessive, excessive greed or price gouging?â€ť Amato asked. â€śIf any business did this, consumer protection would be all over them.â€ť
Amato also said the parking system is being abused. Some people with handicap tags park in three-hour limited parking all day in certain areas, violating a city ordinance.
Resident John Kristopik took issue with the cityâ€™s tax rate - which sits at 50.50 mills, which would not change under the proposed budget.
â€śWe cannot be happy with this budget, because we have the third-highest mill rate in the state,â€ť Kristopik said.
Kristopik commended Stewart for keeping the schoolsâ€™ budget level and not decreasing funding to the schools.
Former Democratic mayoral candidate John McNamara spoke to urge the council to keep an eye on city spending.
â€śOn the one hand, City Hall spending has gone up in consecutive years with the revenue derived from the highest property tax increase in history, and on the other hand funds for the schools are stagnant,â€ť McNamara said. â€śItâ€™s a question of looking at budget priorities and whatâ€™s in the best interest of the citizens and families of New Britain.â€ť
Ken Speyer from the Human Resources Agency of New Britain spoke on behalf of the HRAâ€™s food pantry, which is not projected to receive funding next year from the city.
â€śHRA operates the food pantry with a budget of only $25,300,â€ť Speyer said. â€śMore than half of this money is donated by community sources in addition to the very widespread food donations.â€ť
Speyer said the food pantry would be in danger of closing if it doesnâ€™t get the $10,000 the city normally provides the HRA for the pantry.
Ann Speyer spoke on behalf of the library and the school system. Speyer, who is on the board of the library, said the New Britain Public Library does good work and deserves the full amount of funding it asked for.
As for schools, Speyer said the council should fully fund the budget Superintendent Nancy Sarra and the Board of Education asked for.
â€śShe gave you a budget which is one of the leanest things Iâ€™ve seen come out of the school district in years, which calls for I believe a .85 increase,â€ť Speyer said.
â€śI ask you at least to please at least fund her full request, donâ€™t go cutting it down.â€ť
The full council will meet to adopt a final budget June 1.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.