This story was published in the Record Journal on Tuesday April 3, 2012. The Record Journal already has the budget online and I have a link to it in a prior post. As you can see from the expedited way the newspaper was able to get their hands on a printed copy, scan it in, and post it online inside of six hours that it would take the town no time at all to do the same with the digital copies of the segments of the budget book that they already have.
By Mary Ellen Godin
WALLINGFORD — After announcing his $145.1 million 2012-2013 budget proposal, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. announced that the 150page document will be available online.
The decision is a reversal of Dickinson’s earlier opposition to the idea, when he doubted many residents would view the document and questioned whether it might occupy technical staff’s time.
Dickinson said Monday that making the document available on the town’s website was the least of the town’s concerns. Despite his recognition that more people are gaining access to information online, he still feels it is one more burden on the town.
“We’re dealing with another thing that absorbs staff and time,” Dickinson said. “There are still people without the Internet.”
Dickinson did not say when the document would be posted online. The budget proposal was not online Monday evening.
The longtime debate over the use of Internet technology has heated up in recent years as Town Councilors and former employees have made it public that only two computers in Town Hall have Internet access, putting a strain on some employee functions. Town Council members are split on Dickinson’s hard line against technology in Town Hall.
Democratic Town Councilor Jason Zandri was incensed to learn Monday morning that Dickinson would be announcing the budget Monday afternoon. Zandri, who works in Manhattan, had no way to get to the announcement in time.
“Due to this situation, I will not be able to attend the press conference,” Zandri stated in an email to Dickinson’s office.
In a later phone interview, Zandri said putting the budget online would allow him to review the document from his computer. Instead, he has to send someone to pick it up. An online budget proposal could help bring people to the upcoming public hearings and save money in printing costs.
“If this was posted now, people could open it up and start looking it up,” Zandri said. “Here’s an example of technology in the office that’s a cost savings.”
According to officials in the Finance Department, the town spent $1,500 to print 200 copies of last year’s budget. The office provides copies to the Wallingford Public Library and the town clerk’s office for the general public. It also mails about a half-dozen copies to those who can’t get to Town Hall.
Finance Director James Bowes said he still has to send out the printed budgets and make them available to the public. He hasn’t determined how many he will print. But when it comes to allowing technology, if a department can prove a need, Dickinson will approve it.
“It’s absolutely a good thing,” Zandri said when he heard the mayor was going to upload the spending plan. “It gives the appearance of transparency. Now the public can look that up and ask informed questions at the public hearings.”