Six-hour marathon fails to produce new Stratford budget

Stratford Town Council members talked for more than six hours Wednesday night and Thursday morning and could not reach consensus on a new 2017-18 budget. — Melvin Mason photo

After six more hours of talking, arguing and negotiation, the Stratford Town Council was unable to pass a budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Councilors will resume discussions on Thursday night to try and beat Friday’s budget deadline.

Council members were able to approve amendments to a plan presented by 5th District Councilman Greg Cann that would have reduced Mayor John Harkins’ proposed budget by nearly $4 million. But concerns about proposed staff reductions and errors in line item numbers eventually led to its demise as the late Wednesday night meeting faded into Thursday morning.

A proposed budget amendment that removed more than $4 million from Harkins’ $220.3-million budget proposal had passed 6-4 with support from Cann, 2nd District Councilman Scott Farrington-Posner, 3rd District Councilman Wali Kadeem, 6th District Councilman Philip Young, 7th District Councilman Marianne “Mitzi” Antezzo and 10th District Councilman Tina Manus. That was approved at 12:57 a.m. Thursday morning. That plan would have made significant cuts, including reducing the Board of Education’s planned budget of $109.3-million by $1.4 million.

Prior to that vote, Harkins and Chief Administrative Officer Chris Tymniak argued that proposed cuts would adversely affect the town and town services. Democratic Town Committee Chairman Stephanie Philips, a supporter of the Cann plan, said that Harkins was filibustering to delay a vote on Cann’s proposal.

Harkins had labeled the planned cuts “irresponsible” and had said council members were pulling numbers “out of the air” in order to get to a zero increase.

Things were seemingly all set for a vote on a $216.1-million final budget. But Finance Director Jay Wahlberg said the proposal was not balanced and would require a $610,000 transfer to cover a deficit in EMS funding. Wahlberg also stated that the mill rate would rise from 38.99 mills to 39.13 mills, prompting Harkins to say that they were voting for a tax increase, what some hardliners sought to avoid. A transfer of $600,000 to support the EMS was approved 6-4.

Farrington-Posner proposed another decrease the Board of Ed’s proposed outlay by another $610,000. That was rejected 7-3. Ninth District Councilman Alan Llewelyn had planned to abstain, but voted no with six others.

The $216.1-million proposal failed 8-2 with Young and Antezzo being the only supporters as questions about the mill rate and EMS weighed heavily.

Toward the end of the meeting, Council Minority Leader Vincent Chase proposed voting on Harkins’ original $220.3-million proposal. However, discussions and questions about the EMS funding prompted Chase to withdraw his motion.

The council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to continue talks. Some councilors, including Llewelyn and Kadeem, said they would not be able to attend due to other obligations. It is not clear if there will be a quorum at Thursday night’s meeting.

Follow us on Twitter @StratfordStar for updates on the Town Council budget talks.

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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  • Thayer

    Young and Antezzo have to go, we need to make sure next time they are out!!!!!!!

    • Trevor

      Really? Mitzie knows her stuff. You just mad because they didn’t go with the stupid amendments created by Chase, Dopante, Harden & Lewellyn? We need to see these 4 are out next time.

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  • Thayer

    With our state in such a financial mess, how can we increase taxes in our town right now. We need to tighten our belts and hold on because a storm is coming. Increase town taxes then state taxes, some people just can not handle any more. We need to look at the big picture and do what we can for our residents now and stop throwing money around like we all have it!!!

    • Trevor

      You make no sense. Phil and Mitzie are doing what you want and not raise taxes yet you say they should be voted out of office? Make up your mind. We do need to tighten our belts starting with the BOE. Has the BOE explained why the Bridgeport resident killed by the police attends Bunnell?

      • Ken

        The other strange thing is there were no grieving counselors in place to help with those having a hard time coping with this untimely death. As usual with the BOE something doesn’t add up.
        I am hearing that emails are going out this weekend, from Principals, to the parents to urge them to contact the No votes and to show up Monday night at the town hall meeting as a show of force to change their minds.
        You know, you always hear about the town’s future at this time of the year. First of all, the town’s future is in the past. Second of all, to secure a future you must tighten things up now. Anyone knows that. Make your promised cuts now so we know what the future will be. It is still funny when this town needs money it finds it. Any cuts made will not be made to the higher income employees and the cuts that are made will be a punishment for the No votes.
        One or more of the No votes will cave in. Any guesses?

        • Trevor

          How many of these Principals actually live in Stratford? They don’t care, they get their raises and their taxes don’t go up. Did you just read what Ansonia is doing? A ZERO increase budget and CUTS to the BOE. Why can’t this happen in Stratford? Why must these educators lie and say that if the Town doesn’t give them what they want they will eliminate arts, music & sports. Why doesn’t Janet & Clarence take a pay cut. Something is wrong when people on the BOE are making more than the mayor, fire & police chiefs. What signal does that send to us.

  • Thayer

    I did make a mistake with the names mentioned, lifelong resident, my parents and my in laws are retired and looking to get out of town as we’ll as some of my neighbors. One of them just walked away from their home and moved to Virginia. This use to be a great town and I’m a little scared in the direction it is headed.
    In know time Stratford will just be considered a part of Bridgeport.sad

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