Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has submitted his budget proposal to the City Council. That budget — carrying a $517 million price tag — includes an increase in school spending, according to a press release from Finch administration’s Communication Director Elaine Ficarra.
While Finch’s budget includes $7 million for schools, John Gomes said that allocating funds for education is a mere pretext. Gomes, who ran a primary for the mayor’s seat last year (and later joined Mary Jane Foster in her unsuccessful Democratic primary bid) showed up at the City Hall Annex Tuesday, April 3, bearing a banner that read: “NO TAX INCREASE.” If the City Council passes the proposed budget, the city tax rate will increase by 2.7 mills.
Currently, Bridgeport residents pay a mill rate of 39.64. A mill is a tax rate of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In protest of a possible hike, Gomes said he will show up every day from 2 to 4 p.m. until it is time for the Council to decide on the matter.
Gomes said that before raising taxes, the administration should consider other alternatives. “Just a few weeks ago the mayor gave a salary increase to a few dozen of his administrators,” Gomes said. “Some of them got a raise of up to $15,000. How is it possible that now we, the taxpayers, have to dig in our pockets to pay more?”
No increase in 5 years
The press release issued from the mayor’s office points out that there has not been an increase in taxes since Finch took office five years ago. It also states that the administration kept taxes stable by reducing city jobs, cut overtime in the police department, increased the recycling tariff, reduced utility expenses and negotiated with unions to get concessions. According to the release, the administration has eliminated 200 positions and has saved the city million of dollars since 2007 by efficient use of employees.
If the City Council approves the proposed budget, is estimated that Bridgeport residents will pay, on average, close to $400 more every year. Gomes said he has a two-family house on Park Street for which he pays $12,000 in taxes. He stated that in this economy, it is inhumane to increase taxes in a city such as Bridgeport, a city that is proven to be among the highest in the nation when it comes to taxes paid by its residents.
“I didn’t invite anyone to this demonstration because taxpayers should voluntarily join this cause that, in reality, is theirs,” Gomes said.
Danny Pizarro, a home owner in Bridgeport, shared some thoughts with Gomes at the City Hall Annex. Like Gomes, Pizarro was very upset at the idea of raising taxes and said he would invite people to join the cause.
Investors scared away
“The high taxes are one of the causes why investors don’t come to Bridgeport,” said Gomes. “There are other ways to collect funds for the city.” For instance, he asked, “Why in Bridgeport do we have two City Halls? This building,” he said, referring to the City Hall Annex, “should be sold or rented. It could be utilized to house a movie or a company in that category. If the mayor does that, the income generated is capital, not coming from our pockets.”
Gomes said there are many ways to eliminate expenses and collect revenue without having to increase taxes on residents who are overburdened with responsibilities. “Any resident convinced the administration is unjust by raising taxes is welcome to join the cause because, after all, we all are in the same boat,” he concluded.
The City Council is expected to vote on the budget on May 8.