April 27, 2009

Budget adoption date changed by City Council

City leaders gave themselves a little more breathing room to produce a completed annual budget.
Instead of finishing the job by the third Monday of May, a new law approved by city councilors today allows the budget adoption to occur as late as the first Friday of June.
“It just gives us flexibility,” said city Councilor Craig Minor, who heads the Ordinance Committee that recommended the new statute.
Although the initial draft opened the door for the city to delay its spending plan only this year, councilors agreed with city Councilor Kevin McCauley that it made more sense to allow “the safety valve” whenever a mayor decides there is an “economic emergency.”
Mayor Art Ward said he trusts that mayors will use “common sense” in setting the budget adoption date each year.
Declaring an economic emergency, he said, “is not anything we’re looking forward to doing.”
“I truly believe it will be will exercised with extreme restraint,” the mayor said.
But given the dire outlook for next year, officials are anxious that bad as the overall fiscal picture looks this spring, it could be even worse in 2010.
Having a few extra weeks to work out state and federal aid levels, officials said, may make it possible to keep property taxes lower or preserve more programs and jobs.
“It’s a wise move. It’s a smart decision,” said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, who serves in the state House and spent a decade as mayor as well.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said he’s concerned future mayors might take advantage of the extra time when financial emergencies don’t really exist.
But he put aside his doubts to join the rest of the council in backing the change unanimously.
Officials anticipate holding a joint session of the City Council and Board of Finance on June 4 to adopt this year’s spending plan. Most have said they would like to see a property tax freeze this year.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

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