It’s a year when local and state governments are struggling with falling tax revenues and a severe economic downturn. New Britain is facing all of those struggles plus one more potential hole that could break the city budget in the new fiscal year.
The problem? Mayor Stewart’s proposed $216.3 million estimate, now getting scrutiny by the Common Council, has added millions of dollars of revenue that may not exist at all.
The Mayor’s numbers for the sale of real property includes a $3.5 million line item, an increase of $3 million over the Board of Finance’s $500,000 estimate. The source of the $3 million has been reported to be the city’s sale of the former Pinnacle Heights public housing project to Centerplan development company.
Back in March Mayor Stewart told the Herald: “It’s still up in the air but it’s because of the major change in the economy. Unfortunately, that’s something none of us can control. However, we can work to make sure the deal goes through eventually.”
At issue is whether the $3 million in property revenue and perhaps millions more booked by the city’s finance department for the sale of property in previous years are for real, or based on any solid promises to give by the buyers.
The Common Council, in addition to its line by line review of the budget with department heads, needs to ascertain the status of the Mayor’s revenue estimates, particularly with regard to sale of property, for a true picture of the city’s finances. As the June budget deadline approaches, there are millions of dollars being used to balance the city budget with nothing so far to back it up.
Time is running short on adopting a municipal budget by mid June. It’s time for the Mayor to lead, not mislead the public on whether those property sale revenues can be counted on before June 30th.
No one can blame anyone at City Hall for a bad economy but City Hall has an obligation to tell the truth — even if that truth is bad news.