October 29, 2009

City should do its budge better, mayoral challengers say

The city’s two mayoral challengers say the city needs to do a better job with its budget.

Republican hopeful Mary Alford said the city’s management style includes “procrastination, indecision and budgetary sleights of hand.”

Independent contender Gary Lawton said that city officials failed to keep residents in the loop on municipal finances.

The man they hope to unseat Tuesday, Democratic Mayor Art Ward, said that many officials worked hard to deliver a budget this year that froze property taxes despite declining state aid and revenue shortfalls at City Hall.

He said that next year offers additional financial difficulties but steps are being taken to try to cope with them.

Alford said the city’s decision this year to snatch $2.5 million out of its rainy day fund to pay $600,000 toward equipment and $1.9 million to balance the budget was “an insult to the taxpayers who pay the bills.”

Alford said the city’s real budget problem is the $2.5 million “that nobody wanted to deal with when it should have been dealt with.”

But Board of Finance members said the reason the city has a rainy day fund is to dip into the money when times are tough. This year, they said, they had no other option unless they wanted to lay off employees and pare services.

Ward said he was determined to avoid layoffs if he could because there are already too many people in Bristol without jobs.

But Alford said the city, like households all over town, “needs to live within its means. We can no longer afford to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today.”

The $171 million budget was approved this year with support from both incumbent Republican councilors, Mike Rimcoski and Ken Cockayne, as well as every Democrat except Kevin McCauley and Craig Minor.

Both McCauley and Minor argued that a small tax hike was needed to ensure public works got the funding it needs to prevent the city’s infrastructure from deteriorating.

Lawton said he wants finance officials to do more to keep residents informed.

In addition to the monthly finance board meetings, Lawton said, there ought to be “smaller town hall-style meetings” at the Beals Senior-Community Center and other locales at other times.

“The people deserve to be better informed no just once a month at the convenience of the board or whoever sets the meeting date,” Lawton said.

The finance board, whose members are volunteers, holds sessions at City Hall on the fourth Tuesday of every month and a joint session with the City Council on the second Tuesday of each month. They are open to the public, but rarely attended by anyone other than city officials and reporters.

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


reality said...

wow, inexperienced definately shows - vote democratic, plus incumbents.

Anonymous said...

Gary -
please read the charter. it governs how the BOF meets and such.
maybe you should focus on getting the meetings televised.
btw-as someone who wants to be mayor - how many finance board meetings have you attended?

Gary L. Graff-Lawton said...

To answer your question none. Working 3rd shift really makes it hard to follow up on all the meetings so for that I am guilty and apologize for not being there but until elected I still have to provide for my family. I am in this alone I have no party to do my homework for me so I do the best I can.
You are also correct, the charter does govern that, but that does not mean it could not be changed or modified. I do like your idea about televising them and would like to explore that more if elected, thank you for the suggestion

Anonymous said...

The Demorcratic Mayor lacks the financial knowledge or skill to get this town back on the right track, And for the property tax if he wins are taxes will double. So lets vote for Mary Alford and move this town forward.We can`t take 2 more years of crap this town will be crap if he is Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Gary stop the excuses,Art stop the drinking and Mary stop the profanity with 4&5 year olds!

Gary L. Graff-Lawton said...

Excuses are something you give when you can not do anything. I have done more already than I am sure the republicans or democrats thought I could do. I just stated the obvious I am not relying on anyone but myself. Also that i owe no allegiance to any party but to the voters themselves .

Anonymous said...


Mary, Profanity??

And she wants to be mayor?

If people only knew.

Anonymous said...


Doesn't leave us with much of a choice,or HOPE, does it?

flunkie said...

7:16 - "are taxes will be double" doesn't say much for the upbringing of "mama's little dunce cap's" english courses, now does it "snook 'ums?" Are you in a coma or a comma?

Anonymous said...

Bring back stortz

Anonymous said...

1:23 Did you just get home from the BAR. Keep drinking

Anonymous said...

5:42, Yup! I'm sure flunkie was just getting in from the bar at 1:23 in the afternoon. I'm not sure what your obsession is with bars, but every time someone makes a comment that you don't like, doesn't mean they just got home from a bar. Set the bar higher and try to get a little more creative.