Gifts are welcomed, but solutions are still needed
In a December 20 article on the Bristol Press website titled “City taxpayers get a major $$ ‘gift’”, the article states that the city of Bristol is going to receive approximately $4.7 million from reimbursable expenses on the high school renovations completed more than a decade ago. Of that $4.7 million, approximately $3 million will be able to be used towards the debt services line item in the City budget. Although this “gift” is appreciated, ultimately it is just a one-time source of “revenue” that will be exhausted. Whether that happens in a single year, or over several years, the end result is that this money is not a long-term solution.
It is imperative that the Board of Finance, City Council, Mayor and City employees work together to help trim the budget and our nearly $7.5 million deficit. That deficit figure is based on a flat-line budget, with no increases for any department including the Board of Education. The reality of the situation is still grim, as healthcare costs are projected to continue to increase yearly. Since 2001, the line item in the City budget for healthcare has increased over 108 percent, from $15 million to $31 million. This is a trend that, without intervention, will continue to result in yearly deficits going forward.
Simply put, the City cannot rely on these funds to balance our budget. This was a practice readily used in years past, and is a contributing factor for the reason we are facing yearly budget deficits. For instance, this past budget cycle, $3 million was “borrowed” from the health contingency account in order to reduce the mill rate increase. This was a practice that neither I, nor my Republican colleagues supported. As we said then, and have continued to stress since, Bristol has a structural problem with our budget. The state of Connecticut has similar problems, and the likelihood of state aid decreasing over the next few years only further underlines the importance of getting our fiscal house back in order. We cannot rely on state funding or "gifts" to make ends meet.
The City received a one-time bandage, not a gift. But before we can use this bandage, we need to make cuts.