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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Preliminary Budget Talks Focus on Infrastructure

By James Lomuscio

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First Selectman Gordon Joseloff: “Westporters expect excellent services.” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Cutting costs via consolidations and innovation while preserving the infrastructure that makes Westport a desirable place to live were the focus of the preliminary 2013-14 municipal budget discussions between Westport’s Board of Finance and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff tonight.

“We have a choice,” said Joseloff. “We can increase the expenditures and tax for them, or look for savings.

“Westporters expect not only good services but excellent services, and we have to find a balance to do that,” he added.

Finance board member Janis Collins said that there should be more innovation through technology to consolidate services and garner savings.

“We talk about it all the time, but we have to do it,” she said.

Collins also said that the new budget should “continue our investment in maintaining our roads.”

Her sentiments were echoed by finance board member Brian Stern who said, “We have to create room in the budget to invest in Westport,” including Longshore Park and the downtown, as well as the town’s roads.

“You mentioned, Gordon, the need to be more efficient, and I applaud that,” said Stern, adding that even volunteer commissions and boards could become more efficient, limiting their number of subcommittees, to reduce the burden on the paid staff at Town Hall.

Avi Kaner, finance board chairman, stressed, “Our vision is to maintain Westport as an incredible place,” in light of fiscal constraints.

“Combining services with other municipalities, I’d like to see that continue,” he said.

Noting that the nation is in the fifth year of a recession, finance board member Helen Garten said the major budget challenge will be Westporters objecting “to paying more for the same and deteriorating services.”

“I want to see your priorities for the town operating budget,” Garten told Joseloff.

Joseloff stressed that, as in all his previously submitted budgets “public safety is my No. 1 priority.”

HE also noted that the town has made improvements in its infrastructure such as the eastbound and westbound Saugatuck station house renovations. He also said the town is currently looking at micro-grids for service during power outages.

“I thank you for your input,” said Joseloff. “We’ll certainly take it to heart ...to continue to make Westport a great place to live.”

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Posted 01/03/13 at 04:11 AM



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