NEW BRITAIN - In her sixth State of the City address, Mayor Erin Stewart on Wednesday evening described New Britain’s status as fragile, saying it had squandered its ability to create an additional $5 million in budget flexibility.
While Stewart spent much of her speech highlighting numerous projects - some complete, some ongoing and some that have taken a long time to come together - she also talked of the hardships the city faces. She said some state-level decisions have resulted in a decline of available aid and grants to the city.
“The governor’s proposed budget slightly decreases our municipal aid from last year, and in addition, several proposals will create new and large obligations, such as making us responsible for a percentage of teachers’ pension costs plus an additional $1.6 million in Municipal Employee Retirement System contributions,” Stewart said.
The city’s Grand List was was up 1.17 percent, representing an approximate increase of $1.5 million in tax revenue, but Stewart said she expects the amount of the increase to shrink after adjustments are made.
“Once adjustments are made after appeals, I expect that number to, more realistically, be around $800,000,” Stewart said. “Between reductions in state funding, the imposition of new expenditures from the state, and the year-over-year contractual increases in labor and service costs, I don’t believe the increase in the Grand List alone will be sufficient to absorb these new financial realities. So we must continue to be creative in finding new revenues, while at the same time controlling expenditures.”
Stewart has a team working to audit delinquent personal property tax accounts, which could add more than $823,000 in annual revenue to the city once all the accounts are audited.
“Our partnership with Tax Management Associates has helped our Assessor’s Office audit more than 30 delinquent personal property tax accounts, adding more than $70,000 in potential new tax revenue,” Stewart said. “Furthermore, we have contracted with TaxServ to collect over a thousand delinquent property and motor vehicle tax accounts. I promise you that we are looking under every stone to find additional revenues.”
Stewart highlighted many of the city departments’ efforts to helpi New Britain become a better place to live. The police, fire and economic development departments were among those recognized.
Stewart ended her speech by calling for better communication efforts among New Britain’s leaders.
“I began this address by saying that the state of our city is fragile,” Stewart said. “In my view, the biggest threat to that fragile stability is the continued lack of communication, leadership and trust by this (Common) Council. The political games need to end. We are now entering another election year and my fear is that the rhetoric and posturing will only increase as people fear for their re-elections over doing what is right. My hope is that it doesn’t, and if any of you truly want to work together, my door is always open.”
Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.