Hogtied by budget due dates that force city leaders to produce an annual spending plan before state aid figures are available, officials are looking into the possibility of delaying final passage of Bristol’s own budget to allow more time to find out what to expect from lawmakers.
“We hope that we’ll have more meaningful information” by waiting to approve the city budget, Mayor Art Ward said Tuesday.
With so much depending on how much money the state coughs up – particularly its education cost sharing grant that funds a large amount of city school spending – officials say they don’t want to make assumptions about the figures because a wrong choice has the potential to bust Bristol’s own budget.
Several city councilors said the idea is worth exploring. It will come up for initial discussion at next week’s Ordinance Committee meeting.
The city’s ordinances require that a joint session of the City Council and Board of Finance approve a yearly spending plan on the third Monday of May, several weeks before the scheduled end of the General Assembly’s session in odd years.
Ward said he’s working with the assessor, tax collector, city attorney and others to figure out just how long the city can wait to adopt its budget.
Some time is needed before July to figure out tax bills, print them and otherwise prepare for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes a portion of Bristol, said recently he doubts the legislative session this year will end on time anyway. It might go all summer, he said.
But Ward said that the budget picture gets clearer with every passing day so more time helps even if the city has to adopt its municipal spending plan before the state’s final aid figures are available.
The mayor said he views the ordinance change that he’s looking for as a one-time emergency measure related to the dire fiscal conditions today.
He said the regular budget adoption day will remain in place for the future.
But the ordinance panel might create a change that would make it possible for future administrations at City Hall to delay budget passage as well since the problem may crop again as soon as next year, when state deficit projections are even worse than this year.
Next ordinance meeting
The next Ordinance Committee session is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25 at City Hall. There is a public comment portion at the beginning of the meeting.
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