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Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Dickinson veto; 2010-11 budget stands at $141.4 million

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

As published in the Record Journal Saturday May 22, 2010

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WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s 10-day window to veto the Town Council’s approved budget for the coming fiscal year expired Friday without a veto, making the town’s $141,400,488 spending plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year official.

By whittling down a number of items in Dickinson’s initial budget proposal — including eliminating a $25,000 longstanding annual gift to MidState Medical Center, and halving the amount budgeted to the Police Department to buy new police cruisers from $134,000 to $67,000 — the council shaved $109,370 from the total overall budget for the coming year, reducing the tax increase called for in the coming budget by $3.94 for the average residential taxpayer.

The coming budget raises the town’s tax rate from 23.20 mills to 24.08 mills, resulting in a tax hike of about $174 for the average residential assessment of $197,000. A mill equals $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

The council approved the budget in an 8-1 vote May 12, and by Town Charter Dickinson had 10 days to veto the council’s budget.

“From what I understand, he’s not going to veto it, but he still has today to do so,” Comptroller James Bowes, the town’s chief financial officer, said Friday afternoon, adding that he was “not expecting a phone call” from Dickinson before the close of the business day Friday.

Late Friday afternoon, Dickinson said that he “absolutely will not veto the budget.”

“I think overall it’s as good as we can do,” Dickinson said. “Certainly there are aspects of it that I wish could be better. Nobody ever wants to increase taxes.”

The budget also includes a more than $2.5 million reduction in the Board of Education’s funding request for the coming year, which the school board plans to bridge through a number of measures, including utilizing the system’s reserve account and reconfiguring the town’s elementary schools. The budget also includes an across-the-board wage freeze for all town employees although the town has contracts with several unions that guarantee their employees wage increases in the coming year.

Dickinson has said that if salary concessions can’t be reached, the town would look to lay off personnel in the coming fiscal year.

Dickinson, a Republican who has served as mayor since 1984, said he could not remember the last time he did veto a council-approved budget, but that “it has happened.”

“I don’t remember the year, but there were several I vetoed in the 1990s,” he said. “Thankfully, it’s not most of the time.” The 2010-11 fiscal year runs from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

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