Town Budget Hearings… and I-Pad Discussion – on Ch. 96

The Town Council is both the Wolcott’s legislative body and finance board. As they work towards a June deadline to set the 2011-2012 mill rate, the Council is holding budget hearings with each town department throughout April. The Town’s budget is about $49 million and these hearings assist both Council members and the public to understand each line item therein. It is gone through a fine toothed comb as each department gives justification for its request.

Council members often ask for simple clarifications for what particular line items include. (For example “what is included in a ‘contracted services’ line?) Other questions often revolve on why a department is over or under performing compared to past performance. Sometimes special requests are made, such as paving expenses to the public works department.

This week’s presentation is being aired on Channel 96 today. It includes the following departments:

Sewer and Water Dept.
Library Board
Fire Marshall’s office
Wolcott Volunteer Ambulance
Planning & Zoning
Public Works
Farmingbury Hills Golf Course
Fire Department

The meeting ended with a discussion on whether or not Council members should purchase i-Pads to use for their meetings. Currently, each member is either e-mailed or snail mailed a meeting packet with pertinent information to be discussed. This includes a meeting agenda, bid items, drafts of contracts, letters submitted by residents, notices of appointments by the Mayor, and other information. Municipal Finance Officer Linda Bruce also periodically includes a year-to-date report on how the Town’s budget is performing.

Linda Bruce presented research to the Council. If available, the i-Pad 1 would cost $529 each. The newest i-Pad would cost about $700. There would also be costs to install security on the devices and if the Council chose, a $14.00 wireless service fee for the actual service.

After she finished, Dist. 1 Councilman Charles Marsella said “I’m having a hard time seeing the cost savings on this,” as he compared the mailed and e-mail versions already today. He thought it was contradictory that the Council might make a large purchase while holding other departments to their previous expense account. Bruce noted that there is leftover money from last year’s Charter Revision that could cover the iPads, if the Council decided to use it for that. If that money isn’t used, it would return to a town’s reserve fund.

Mayor Dunn inquired if the Board of Education has cost savings from the laptops that Board uses. Santagotta said that they would inquire with the School Superintendant’s office. The Board of Education has used laptops at their meetings for several years. It is the only perk members of that Board enjoy, as State law forbids BOE members from recieving any salary or stipend. The computers are passed on to new members after elections and are town property. Town Council members currently earn $2000 a year.

Some Councilmen seemed conflicted between the old fashioned cut-down-a tree method and electron. “I would just print mine off,” says Olmstead. Some Council members already receive their bi-weekly reports by e-mail. “Why?” asked Michael Perrone. “So I can read it on paper.”

“I think its a huge liability. It can be lost or stolen. I think we can save money just by using e-mail alone,” Says Mastrofrancesco. “I just print mine up. My wife gets after me because I use so many (ink) cartrdiges,” noted Santagotta.

The Council decided not to take up the issue any further, although the discussion seemed against the idea. They are waiting on information from the School Superintendant’s office to see if there are any cost savings.

What do you think?


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