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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dickinson budget examined in workshop

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday May 4, 2010

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WALLINGFORD — The Town Council continued to scour Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year in a workshop meeting Monday, reviewing, among others, the budgets of the Tax, Finance, Youth and Social Services and Animal Control departments as well as the office of the mayor.

When the Economic Development Commission came before the council with its proposed budget, Democrat John Sullivan said he would like to see the town increase the amount it allotted for that expense, but the council ultimately voted to approve the commission’s $62,908 budget request without any alterations.

“I would really like to see thousands of more dollars put toward the EDC,” Sullivan said. “We need a very, very aggressive game plan if we are going to be bringing in new business — not just from Wallingford, not just from Connecticut, but from all over the country.”

While reviewing the Youth and Social Services Department’s $366,290 budget request, Republican Craig Fishbein made a motion to halve the $1,200 budgeted to the department for transportation reimbursement after Director Craig Turner told the council that his department rarely exhausts that expense. The council approved that motion, but rejected one by Fishbein to halve the $500 budgeted for gas and oil expenses for the department’s van.

When Government Access TV’s $132,497 budget request came up, several councilors expressed concern that more than $40,000 spent to install an automated camera system in the Robert Earley Auditorium of Town Hall did not allow the department to reduce the amount it budgeted for employee salaries, which was almost $119,000.

“I had high hopes when we installed the new camera systems that we would be able to cut our costs,” said Robert Parisi, Republican chairman of the council.

Scott Hanley, who manages the town’s TV station, said that part of the purpose of the camera upgrade was to reduce the number of hours he worked, because, as the station’s lone fulltime employee, he often finds his duties call for him to log far more than 40 hours a week.

During the review of the proposed budget for Dickinson’s office, Democrat Nick Economopoulos asked the Republican mayor point blank if he would ever support widespread Internet access for town employees.

“I think it’s what I said before: I want to see where we save money and that’s the measuring stick,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson’s $141,509,858 budget proposal for the 2010-11 fiscal year reflects a 0.8 percent increase over the town’s current spending plan, but raises property taxes by 3.88 percent. In addition to the proposed tax increase, Dickinson’s budget proposal cuts funding requests to both the general government and the Board of Education.

The council will continue its workshop review of the mayor’s proposal Wednesday at 6 p.m., when it is scheduled to review the budgets of the Electric, Water and Sewer divisions, among others.

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