NEW BRITAIN - On Saturday, Alderman Carlo Carlozzi and the Common Councilâs Democratic caucus pushed through an amended 2018-19 budget that cut about $1.7 million from Mayor Erin Stewartâs original proposal.
While part, or all, of the Democratsâ changes could be vetoed by Stewart, Carlozzi said, the caucus is proud of the amendments it introduced last weekend.
âWe feel very good about what we did. We know that it was very difficult and very arduous to come to these decisions, but that itâs a small step forward in what we need to do to get our budget back on track for the community,â the councilâs Democratic majority leader told The Herald on Tuesday.
The Democrats trimmed Stewartâs $237.7 million budget proposal by about $1.7 million. The amended budget reduces the cityâs tax rate from 50.50 mills to 49.977 mills and provides an additional $429,171 to the school district.
The list of amendments includes the elimination of many city positions, some of them vacant.
âThe decisions were not taken lightly in any way, shape or form,â Carlozzi said. âWe can all look at ourselves in the mirror and know that what we did, we did with no malice and strictly for the good of the community.â
Carlozzi said several positions that had been vacant before Stewartâs April 11 budget presentation have since been filled. Carlozzi said he wonders why the mayor would continue to fill vacancies when, he believes, the city needs to cut costs.
âShe will call it âquality of lifeâ and that these are essential services, I will tell you these are not essential services and the city can operate very well without them,â Carlozzi said. âIt is very disturbing, as Democrats on the council, to find that these vacant positions continue to get filled in a time when we are struggling with money and we are struggling with debt.â
Carlozzi referred to recently filled positions including sanitarian supervisor, another city attorney, civil engineer and general foreman as jobs that arenât crucial to city business or âquality of life.â
âWhere do we start to stop this hiring at City Hall?â Carlozzi asked.
Carlozzi said the Democrats did not eliminate any vacant position affecting public safely. Any vacant positions in the police or fire departments werenât touched, Carlozzi said.
In the amended budget, the position of director of the Senior Center is eliminated. Carlozzi said when the mayor restructured City Hall years ago, the Senior Center was put under jurisdiction of the Community Services, Parks and Recreation Department. Carlozzi said many many coordinators and managers in that department could assume the role of Senior Center director.
âEric Barbieri, whoâs in charge of Parks and Rec, has a number of different individuals who can very easily split up those duties and go to the Senior Center during the week to do the work that the director is currently doing,â Carlozzi said. âThere is no reason why that position cannot be absorbed with the other people that we have in positions of management at Parks and Rec.â
The Community Services Department directorâs position is also on the chopping block. Again, Carlozzi said this position is another that was previously absorbed into the Parks and Recreation Department but is still filled.
In Mondayâs paper, Stewart criticized Democrats for not communicating their planned cuts to department heads whose departments would be affected. Carlozzi said it would be a biased group to be asking for recommendations.
âOur department heads are very good people, but they answer to one person, and that is the mayor of the city of New Britain,â Carlozzi said.
Carlozzi emphasized that Democrats are committed to limiting government spending in the city.
Analyzing the cityâs restructuring possibilities months ago was one step, and cutting the cityâs budget is another, he said.
Carlozzi said the mayorâs upcoming union negotiations are important in the cityâs effort to reduce spending.
âWhat we did Saturday should not be a surprise to anyone who has been listening to what the Democrats have been saying since November,â Carlozzi said.
Stewart has until Tuesday, June 19, to veto the budget. She has line-item veto authority, so the mayor can choose to veto certain cuts while keeping others.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at email@example.com.