WEST HAVEN >> Democratic former City Councilwoman Nancy Rossi has formed a campaign committee and plans to run for mayor in November 2017, with her primary issue being the city’s financial condition, she confirmed Thursday.
“I’m definitely running,” Rossi said. “I didn’t open an exploratory committee,” but went instead to a full-blown campaign committee.
She said she will seek the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement “but I doubt very much that I’ll get it.
“I know one thing,” Rossi said. “If (Mayor) Ed (O’Brien) announces and he gets the nomination, I know there will be a primary. I don’t know what he’s doing, but really, what he’s doing doesn’t change that path that I’m going to take.”
Asked why she decided to run, Rossi said, “The reason I am running is because the financial condition has deteriorated under this administration ... and right now, the future is very bleak because of the financial condition of the city.”
West Haven’s most recent credit rating downgrade, which took place in August but was never announced by the city, is “of great concern to me,” said Rossi, who served for five terms — 10 years — on the City Council, including several years as its Finance Committee chairwoman.
“One of the reasons that the council members didn’t vote for” O’Brien’s original bid to bond to pay the city’s deficit “was because he didn’t have a balanced budget” and now the recent revelation that the annual audit it likely to find that the city’s $16.5 million cumulative General Fund deficit grew further during the 2015-16 fiscal year will show that, Rossi said.
“You can’t continue down this path,” she said. “You can swallow the bitter pill once — the deficit financing ... but you should have a balanced budget going forward.”
Mayor O’Brien said that “everybody has a right to run and I look forward to talking about the issues ... because I think we’re making a lot of progress ... Financially, I think we’re making the right moves.”
He said he does plan to seek a third term and he expects to make that announcement “probably in the spring.”
Rossi, who works as an accountant, was a constant thorn in O’Brien’s side throughout his first two-year term in office. She was narrowly defeated by former City Council chairman David Russell in a Democratic primary in September 2015. She then lost an independent run after petitioning to get on the ballot.
Russell’s victory was part of a citywide sweep that saw Mayor O’Brien take more than 61 percent of the vote to defeat City Council Chairman Nick Pascale, as the endorsed slate won every other race but one.
Rossi previously ran twice against former Mayor John Picard in 2011 and 2013.
Director of Finance Kevin McNabola said that over the past three years, the O’Brien administration has taken “many proactive measures ... to stabilize the financial condition of the city.”
They include eliminating $3.2 million in one-time revenues in the operating budget, lowering the tax collection rate from 98.7 percent to 98.5 percent, restructuring the city’s health insurance and implementing advanced tax collections in early June, strengthening the city’s cash flow position, he said.
Moody’s, in its summary of the city’s downgrade, was “encouraged by the approval of the deficit bonding package, which will help stabilize the city’s cash position and eliminate a long-standing deficit that it has had since 2005,” McNabola said.
“Moody’s is also encouraged by seeing the city take positive steps to restore structural balance by adopting a formal fund balance policy and conservatively budgeting revenues, which had not been done in previous years,” he said.