UPDATE, JAN. 18, 5:26 P.M.
Wednesday, the second day of the 's question and answer sessions with town departments, included the as well as the , finance, the Town Clerk and others.
Several themes emerged across departments:
Salary and Benefit driven budget increases
- Budget Director, Jennifer Charneski . First Selectman, Rob Mallozzi said this was an issue, "that has never been raised before." He said Selectmen would, "hand this to the Board of Finance, 'cause quite frankly, they're the experts," but that it was "something we've got to recognize," to make clear to our "employees and to taxpayers that we're not going to run away from this." He said he would recommend a contribution, but not at the $3 million level, adding, "we don't have that luxury."
- Of the police department's proposed budget increase of 5.15%, "over 5% of that is salary increases" projected in the pending labor agreement, according to .
- , said taking into account the revised budget for the current year, their operating budget projection is 9.44% greater for next year. Those additions are largely contract negotiated labor increases, he said.
- A new line item in the fire department budget for overtime and injury, rather than seeking appropriations, is $200,000 and reflects reality, Hennessey said. To date this fiscal year (six months in), about $118,000 has been appropriated for overtime and injury costs.
- hopes to rehire a full-time third inspector, who was laid off several years ago.
- would like to hire for a vacant position that's included in current budgets.
Capital Expenditures Reflect Aging Equipment and Infrastructure:
- On Hennessey's list, replacing an older truck which needs frequent repair. "It's not our top priority item; when it breaks, we fix it. It works today, hopefully it will be working tomorrow." he said. One concern is the time between order and delivery, which he said is 12 to 24 months.
- The police department's big ticket item is the replacement of dated radio consoles and renovation of the dispatch center where they're used. Nadriczny said the consoles have a useful life of about another 18 months. Total cost for the renovation is estimated at about $600,000.
- Miller has $65,000 for parking payment machines on her list. She said they have spent $2600 fixing the Morse Court machine, which is 11 years old. said that machine, which brings in revenue of about $78,000 per year, was out of service the week before Christmas.
Increasing Fuel Costs:
- Cited frequently as a contributing factor in budget increases.
On a positive note, both Platz and Miller tied their requests for additional personnel to increased activity, and therefore revenues, in their departments:
- From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, the first six months of this fiscal year, his department issued 28 single family dwelling permits, up five from the same time last year, Platz said.
- Platz said he believed the $1.1 million was the best single year total for permit fees, and that this year his department was on target to collect about $900,000.
- Platz also said his revenue projections for this year did not include the , which is expected to begin this spring. He anticipates about 20 hours of work for his department per week from the project and fee revenues of $250,000 to $300,000.
- Miller echoed Platz' comments saying, “Things are getting busier, we’re getting back to our pre-recession numbers, especially in requests for commuter parking.”
The Board of Selectmen will continue their meetings tomorrow. The Board of Finance is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.
The first draft of the budget is available on the town website.
As questioning aimed at finding a way to turn the , into a final version that's in line with First Selectman Rob Mallozzi's call for an increase of 2.5 percent or less began Tuesday, :
:"Seems to me the targeted spending increase should be 1.0 percent, not 2.5 percent. The public sector needs to realize that the private economy is still reeling."
: "Look around at your neighbors and friends. Do you know many earning more income in 2011 than they did in 2010? I do not. ..Is it that inconceivable to actually deliver a spending CUT?!? How about a tax cut?"
Tom: "Never mind flat. My operating budget for my group was cut another 20% for 2012. Can you imagine the public sector having to do that?"
Asked to respond, Mallozzi said, that contracted wage increases, "which I did not negotiate," are in place and at an increase of 2.5 to 2.9 percent. Therefore, he said that if town services are to remain where they are, the goal he's set means, "in essence, we're going to be flat."
Questions put to several of the departments presenting included:
- Kiwanis Park is budgeted for more than $75,000. Bob Rogers, Chair of the Park and Recreation Commission, said a commendable job is done in ensuring that revenue of programs covers their costs. Mallozzi asked whether with the addition of Waveny Pool if Kiwanis is "utilized at a level that justifies the investment." "I think that is something we can look at," he said.
- A capital expenditure in 2017-2018 of approximately $400,000 anticipated for turf and gurf fields maintenance, raised the question of allocating capital in this year's budget towards future expenses. While supporting it "philosophically," board member Beth Jones said, "it will be hard this year when we're trying to keep the budget down."
- On the renovation of the Irwin Park Barn to provide public bathrooms at the park and possible community meeting rooms and classrooms, Jones said it might be justified if the space could be utilized during the Town Hall renovation as well.
Health and Sanitation:
- The conversion of a part-time employee to full-time status in order to assist Briggs Geddis, Director of Environmental Health. Geddis said he is doing many more inspections of restaurants and public pools than in years past. Jim Lisher, Chair of the Health and Human Services Commission, said food services inspections have more than doubled since 2009.
- On the revenue side, board member Nick Williams asked about raising inspection fees. Geddis said there is no fee for pool inspections and restaurant fees have not been raised in more than four years. Mallozzi asked the department to return with recommendations on fee increases to, "offset these folks and the expertise and time they take."
On the demands being made on this department, Lisher said, "If you want to believe the economy has not hit New Canaan, take a look at these."
- Town contributions made to Human Service Agencies totals $179,000 this year and the projected increase is $500.
- The expenditure of $50,000 for a full-time Kids in Crisis counselor at was questions. Mallozzi asked if this was something the school could provide without bringing in an outside agency. Citing the "uptick in the aging population," he asked, "how important it is for the town to be funding it to the extent that we are."
- A similar question was raised about . While Lisher said, "We're extremely fortunately as a community to have both these organizations in place (Staying Put), we do need to take a look at where this goes in the future."
The board will continue meeting with departments tomorrow and Thursday, if needed. The departments will be meeting with the Board of Finance next, followed by the Town Council.
The Board of Education will go before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
The first draft of the budget is available on the town website.
(Editor's Note: This article has been edited to correctly reflect that Assistant Chief John Hennessey spoke on behalf of the New Canaan Fire Department.)