STAMFORD, Conn. -- Republicans launched strong attacks to cut Stamford’s $508 million 2014-15 proposed budget Tuesday night but failed as the Democratic majority voted down their repeated attempts at a Board of Representatives meeting.
Republicans were angered by Stamford Mayor David Martin’s $259,308,347 operating budget and tried to cut it down, initially by $7.2 million and when that failed, by smaller amounts.
In the end the operating budget passed by a vote of 23-11. Six of the 40 representatives were absent from the meeting.
City Rep. Kieran Ryan, R-1, said residents are faced with higher property taxes at a time when many have seen their incomes frozen.
“These taxes are becoming ever more burdensome,” as he complained that city managers continue to see their pay rates climb year after year.
The tentative property tax increase is 3.39 percent. The $507,882,563 total budget is split with $248,574,216 for the Board of Education and $259,308,347 for the city.
City Rep. John Zelinsky, D-11, cautioned that backing the cuts Tuesday night would hurt city services as well as fire and police staffing.
However, City Rep. Dennis Mahoney, R-20, scoffed at that argument. He and other Republicans praised the Board of Education for the 1.43 percent increase in its $248,574,216 budget. That spending plan passed 34-0.
Mahoney said education leaders were able to come in with a low increase without harming education or closing schools. He asked why the mayor couldn’t do that with the city spending plan.
“(Martin) needs to control his own budget. That’s why he is the mayor,” he said.
Although the meeting was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., but it was delayed while board members met in the Republican and Democratic caucuses. The waiting didn't help the mood of about two-dozen residents who attended the meeting because they are unhappy over the rise in their property taxes, largely driven by revaluation.
Turn of River resident Timothy Huff wandered over to the media table before the Board of Representatives came in to express his frustration at the wait and with his taxes.
“We heard the mayor is proposing a 5 percent increase and on top of our 23 percent increase last year that’s unacceptable,” he said. “We came down here to protest, but there’s no one here to protest.”
Huff, along with about a dozen other people left, at about 9 p.m. just minutes before Republicans began to arrive. Democrats didn’t enter the room until 9:30 p.m.
The final property tax rate will be set May 13 when the Board of Finance meets.