MERIDEN — The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to delay approval of Meriden’s 2017-18 budget after the city’s legal counsel determined the charter deadline could be considered “directory rather than mandatory.”
The council’s finance committee voted Friday to send the $194.9 million budget to the full council. City Manager Guy Scaife had previously said $3.5 million had to be added to the budget, which was initially $191 million, bringing the tax rate required to support the spending plan up to 40.45 mills.
Scaife suggested the council postpone adopting a budget until more is known about state funding, which remains uncertain as budget discussions continue at the Capitol.
Last week, council Democrats, including Majority Leader Brian Daniels and Cathy Battista, opposed violating the City Charter to postpone a vote on the budget. Minority party councilors were in favor of delaying the vote as the charter imposed no penalties for not meeting the May 11 deadline.
City Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn was instructed to look into the matter. Quinn based his recommendation on a 1984 Connecticut Supreme Court decision in a New Haven case.
“The court determined the guidelines in the charter were to be considered directory rather than mandatory,” Quinn said. “Meaning under the circumstances of that situation, New Haven could waive their charter provision and adopt a new schedule.”
Quinn said a tax rate would have to be locked in by June 2, so the council would have to adopt a budget by May 22 to allow a 10-day period in which it could be vetoed by the mayor. Scaife disagreed with Quinn, saying a budget could be adopted as late as mid-June, but ideally should be set by June 1. He asked councilors not to specify a date in their resolution to delay a budget vote. A new deadline would be determined by the next council meeting, on May 15.
In other business, the council voted to adopt water and sewer rate increases that will increase the average residential bill 14.8 percent in June. Republican Minority Leader Dan Brunet case the sole vote against the rate hikes.
The Spirit of Meriden award was given to Melissa Kasperzyk, founder of Prom Angels, a group that distributes free dresses to Meriden students for their school proms.