Reported Stewart Veto Reverts Budget to Higher Taxes and Lower School Funding

Republican Mayor Erin Stewart has reportedly vetoed the city budget approved by the Democrats on the City Council that would have lowered her proposed tax increase and increased school funding.

Under the City Charter rules, Stewart’s veto means that her original proposed budget takes affect as the official city budget instead of the budget approved by the Council on June 9th. The Council voted for its budget with all nine Council Democrats voting in favor of the amended budget, while five of the six Council Republicans voted against it. Ald. Jamie Giantonio (R-1) was absent from the meeting.

Stewart’s veto means that the city’s tax rate is to increase from the 49.977 mills in the budget approved by the Council to the 50.50 mills in her budget plan, resulting in higher overall taxes.

While Stewart had attempted to portray her tax proposal as, “no tax increase,” because her budget would keep the property tax mill rate at 50.50, that same rate will result in an increase in overall taxes because the amount of property valuations used to calculate property taxes went up due to the recent once-every-five-years property tax revaluation. In January, Stewart announced that that there would be a 6.27% increase in the taxable valuation of property in the city.

Meanwhile Stewart’s veto would eliminate the $429,171 increase in school funding approved in the Council’s budget plan. Many city residents have expressed concern about the level of city commitment to New Britain schools being very low. Stewart’s budget provides no additional funding for city schools.

Democrats, in their budget plan, increased school funding while lowering the amount of the tax increase proposed by Stewart by cutting $1,745,844 from the City Hall budget.

Stewart had objected to many of those cuts, such as elimination of certain department head positions.

In addition, one of the positions that would have been eliminated would have been the city Human Right Officer.

The New Britain City Charter provides for a strong Mayor. While the Council does officially have the power to override the Mayor’s veto, with a Council Republican caucus of six members, Stewart can deny the nine-member Democratic caucus the ten votes needed to pass anything without her approval.

The effect of Stewart’s veto, for Council Democrats, means that their priorities are cut out of the city budget process. For Stewart and Council Republicans, it means that they will now be seen as solely responsible for the increase in taxes, lower school funding and all other parts of the budget, whether viewed favorably or unfavorably.