Democrats Propose Alternative Budget


Wolcott’s Town Council approved a budget Tuesday night, but not without Democrats offering an alternative proposal.

The Board of Education’s proposed $31,470,976 budget which includes a $191,000 increase (0.61%) emerged unscathed and neither Republicans nor Democrats had much comment on it. Instead, Mayor Dunn’s $17,512,688.37 proposal became the focus of discussion even though it is already 6.0% ($1,115,854.55) lower than this year. Even with the overall expenditures reduced, the budget still faced an approximate $100,000 gap because of falling revenue. Wolcott will be receiving less money in State paving, plowing and other grants because of the State budget crisis. In addition, the Town’s grand list has remained stable and some tax payers are finding it difficult to pay their due.

Democrat David Gentile proposed an amended budget which would keep the Education budget the same, but reduce the Mayor’s town budget by $73,571. Their proposal includes a 0.01 mill decrease. They accomplished this by adding $100,000 into the expected back property taxes (to $750,000) and estimating a 98.33% collection rate. Below are the proposed budget reductions by the Democrats:

General Government:

Legal Costs $10,000

Democrats argued that this account has been over budgeted in the past. On review, only $5,000 was unspent in this column in 2007-2008.

Fuel, heating $2000

Democrats argue that this has been over budgeted in the past. They are correct, but Mayor Dunn already reduced this line item this year by $6,000 to match what was expended last year.

Planning & Zoning

Consulting Services $3000

In the past, $568 was spent in 2006-2007, and $1255 in 2007-2008. $7,000 has been allocated this upcoming year. While this is a contingency fund (just in case we need it…), it appears that very little has been taken from it in the past. A reduction may be justifiable.

Registrars of Voters

Ballots, Election $3000

There is a large increase in this line item this year to cover the new paper ballots for the new voting machines. These are more expensive than the lever machines. However, last year I joined Democrats in reducing the election expense line item thinking that there would not be a primary this past year. Of course, I was wrong and after reducing this line item, we later needed to find money for the expenses. As a result, I think that it would be unwise to reduce this line for next year. With primaries and unforseeable referendums, we might need this funding.

Commission on Aging

Maintanance – Senior Bus $500

The Commission on Aging requested a $500 increase this year to keep an older bus on the road. The Town owns two busses which both run throughout the day taking seniors to appointments. They were offered an opportunity to buy a new bus, but opted to maintain the older bus for less cost.

Fuel Senior Bus $2000

Democrats argue that we haven’t had to spend as much as budgeted in the fuel budget in this and three other fuel accounts. The Town currently has a contract on diesel fuel , yet that contract will be renegotiated this year. With fuel prices dramatically on the rise in only the past month, cutting this line will put the bus service at risk.

Police

Administrative Salaries $10,000
In Service Training $ 5,000
Contracted Services $5,000
Vehicle Maintanance $5,000
Dues/Fees/Conferences $1000
DARE $1000

The Democrats here are presuming that the Chief’s retirement announcement – made only 4 days ago – will result in a savings in this department. At this moment, we don’t know when the Chief intends to retire. His one sentence letter to the mayor only stated that he will do so this year. Because of some serious illnesses and injury to an already stretched department, quite a bit of money has been transferred from these line items to cover overtime costs. Some police vehicles have needed some serious maintainance as well. A $32,000 cut to police services amounts to almost a full police officer. We cannot expect with definitity how much will be spent on overtime due to illness especially with the pace given this year. While we should expect savings when we hire a new police chief, we cannot know how much exactly and this money may be needed elsewhere. So far, money has been taken from these other accounts to cover overtime costs.
Vehicle Maintanane is critical for the police dept. because last year the town decided to wait an extra year than usual to try to stretch out the use of vehicles. The result was sometimes having fewer vehicles on the road because so many needed maintanance at the same time. This isn’t a good situation to have in such a critical department.

Civil Preparedness
Equipment Maintanance $1000

Emergency Planning Commission
Training/ Operations $1271
Capital Equipment $1800
Emergency Plan Revision $1000

No more than $4000 has been spent on Civil Prepaedness equipment in the past, so this reduction might be acceptable. I supported the LEPC reductions. In his hearing, I asked the Commissioner what the money for the Emergency Plan Revision goes to. He answered that it went towards a contractor to re-write the emergency plan every year. I asked who we have the contract with. He replied he contracts himself this money in addition to his annual part-time salary of about $7,600.

This reply was the sole reason I voted against the original Republican motion to pass this budget. I thought this practice was very unethical and wouldn’t allow the budget to move forward unless this line item was eliminated.

Highway and Streets
Gas $3000
Paving $10,000

If you look outside your house, you’ll see that paving is needed in town after this past rough winter. There are some streets, including Forrestview Dr., Colby La., Deepwood Dr., Chasse Ave. and others that look like they’ve experienced an earthquake. Democrats argue that much of this line item hasn’t been used. They are correct that there haven’t been much paving done, but this is because much of this line item has been transferred into plowing and overtime costs because of the numerous snow storms that took place on weekends. Paving usually is done in the summer.

Park and Recreation

Peterson Park Improvements $5000

$15,000 has been allocated for Peterson Park improvements for the previous 3 years. Usually, not more than $8500 has been spent in past years, although I don’t have this current year’s expenditures in front of me. I know that last year they proposed some significant improvements.

Library

Maintanance & Repair $3000

This line item was one of the few that was greatly increased this year, and by $20,000 it is significant. During budget hearings, the library board noted large cracks in the walls, leaks in the reference room, and other structural problems. Unless I know that it will cost less to do this job, I think this line item is justified for this kind of work that clearly shouldn’t be delayed. I did not hear the Democrats convey any new information as to why they are reducing this line item.

Comments welcome

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