The Bridge, The Debt, and The Future of New Britain
Not too many people in town realize it, because of the feel-good propaganda flowing from the mayor’s office, but:
“We’re broke!” That’s a quote from Rich Reyes, Assistant Majority Leader of the City Council, uttered solemnly at the last Democratic Town Committee meeting.
It is this harsh reality that is making the Democrats put on the brakes in spending.
The Republicans hope to cover up the fact that we will soon not be able to pay our bills by…more borrowing.
Our mayor, focused like a laser on leaving New Britain for higher office had an image problem: how do you make a poor city look not-so-poor? Answer? Don’t pay your bills and declare a surplus.
Kick The Can
For years New Britain has been paying around $30 million annually toward our city debt. Suddenly the Republican administration cut that total in half. With “debt refinancing.” That’s a fancy way of saying that we paid a $1 million fee to bond merchants. Plus millions more in increased interest, to push our payments into the future.
So last year, we paid only $16 million. Instead of making our debt payment, the city had $15 million left over to make us look financially healthy: “a surplus!” This year we’ll pay $18 million, and then it climbs steeply. Until in 2021, when we have to pay $40 million. We can’t pay that much. Period.
So the Republican answer? Refinance, AGAIN, for the fourth time! Paying millions extra, again. Just the money we are spending on the paycheck of the bond merchants alone would pay for 5 Spanish-Speaking Centers.
Democrats Put Brakes On Spending
Before they sign on to that, our new, responsible City Council majority are looking for a better way. First, by looking at ALL city spending, including the shiny makeover for the Main St bridge. The city’s share of that is $2.4 million. $2.4 million for a city that invests less per pupil for education than any other town in the state.
How much of this is cosmetics? A flashy eyesore for a city that is going broke? How much is necessary structural repair to the bridge? Our Council majority is prepared to pay a modest amount for decoration, and whatever it takes to repair the bridge, but the mayor’s office has not supplied these details, yet.
Instead of responding to the technical questions of the Council majority, Republicans answer with personal attacks. Just like they wanted us to sign on immediately to millions more in debt, they are trying to railroad this bridge makeover.
This won’t be the only unnecessary spending that gets a hard look from our councilors. We need to straighten out our spending, or we will no longer be able to borrow for necessary work on the schools again in our lifetimes.