MERIDEN — The City Council will hold a special meeting Monday to send the adopted city budget back to the council’s Finance Committee after voters overwhelmingly rejected the budget in a referendum this month.
Council Majority Leader David Lowell said the council needs to hold the special meeting because referring the budget at its regular meeting on Aug. 6 wouldn’t give the council enough time to hold a public hearing and make changes to the budget before the City Charter’s 30-day deadline on Aug. 17.
Lowell doesn’t expect any discussion at the special meeting.
“We just need the legal formality (of referring the budget) to get it to the Finance Committee in time to get a proper public notice for the public hearing...there’s no discussion, there’s no details about the budget,” he said.
The committee is required to give 10 days’ notice prior to a public hearing, Finance Committee Chairman Brian Daniels said last week.
The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on Aug. 9, allowing residents to give feedback on the adopted $198 million budget that nearly 6,000 residents voted to reject on July 18.
Following the public hearing, Lowell said the Finance Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet on Aug. 14 to discuss changes and send a recommendation back to the City Council. The full council would then meet on Aug. 16 to vote on a new budget.
The adopted budget would have raised property taxes by 4.66 percent, resulting in about $200 in additional taxes for the average city homeowner. .
It is the first time voters have rejected a city budget since the City Charter was changed 22 years ago allowing the referendum process.
Corporation counsel Michael Quinn said the charter doesn’t dictate what changes need to be made to the budget.
“There's nothing specific in the charter as to what changes have to be made. They could keep it the same if they wanted,” Quinn said.
The charter only allows for one budget referendum per fiscal year, so residents wouldn’t be able to force a second referendum, Quinn said.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati would have five days after the passage of the budget to issue any veto. The council will be given 10 days after passage of a new budget to consider vetoes and adopt a new mill rate.
Lowell said he doesn’t have a target amount he’d like to see cut, adding about $5 million would need to be cut to keep taxes flat.
Republican Minority Leader Dan Brunet said “realistically, it’s not going to be a zero tax increase, but it has to be reasonable” based on the cost living, meaning about a 2 percent increase.
“Everything’s on the table,” Brunet said.
“We’re totally open to changes with all line items of the budget,” said Lowell, who added the council will have to consider “competing priorities” among members of the public.
“The council has its work to do, all 12 of us plus the mayor,” Lowell said. “I don't think that’s lost on anybody.”