New Britain’s city government, moving to adopt a budget for 2012-2013 in the next two weeks, continues to deal with the reckless pattern of budget-making by former Mayor Stewart who served four terms ending last November.
In successive years the Stewart administration piled up unpaid obligations, including the current budget ending June 30th, that have left City Hall with unpaid obligations and spending that will not be met through the normal flow of anticipated tax receipts, state aid and other sources of income.
The GOP critics of Mayor O’Brien, sweeping the audited numbers under the rug, are ratcheting up unsupported attacks on O’Brien’s efforts to deal honestly with the monumental fiscal ditch they created.
How did Tim Stewart dig New Britain into a nearly $30 million hole? In 2009, he had a $4,121,288 shortfall in the city budget. So what did he do to deal with that problem? He dug the hole deeper. Between 2009 and now, he committed New Britain to spending an additional $22 million dollars a year while city revenues actually dropped by more than $2 million. He pretended the problem didn’t exist by committing the city to filling that deficit, each year, with one-time revenues — kicking the responsibility to future budgets and a new administration. Stewart, withholding information from and hostile to the Common Council for much of his tenure, got his way running out the clock on budget deadline each year. In all, Stewart used a total of $22,851,208 in one-time revenue that undeniably has brought the city budget deficit to $29,497,964.
Setting a new budget for the year that begins July 1st would be difficult enough under normal circumstances. But “normal” does not describe the city’s current finances as Mayor O’Brien and the Common Council prepare to set a budget that seeks to avoid harmful cuts and hold the line on the property tax.
The threatened, unacceptable program cuts and potential layoffs that have surfaced in this budget season are a direct consequence of the questionable fiscal maneuverings of the Stewart administration for at least the last four years.
Why bring it up now? You need to know the cause of a deficit problem like this before you can begin to solve it. The deficit is real and must be addressed in a fiscally responsible way to get the city on an even and more stable keel with its municipal budgeting.