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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Board of Finance Begins Budget Discussions

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The Westport Board of Finance tonight began its discussions of the proposed 2006-07 selectman’s budget, which carries a 4.9 percent increase over the current budget.WestportNow.com Image
The Westport Board of Finance tonight began the first of two nights of budget worskhops on First Selectman Gordon Joseloff’s proposed 2006-07 budget. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Ron Malone for WestportNow.com

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff’s budget proposal is $53.7 million, which is a $2.5 million increase.

Combined with the Board of Education budget, the proposal is $151.2 million, which is a 4.9 percent increase.

Joseloff said his proposal includes a number of improvements to the town’s technology system—including new people in the Information Technology Department—and a new paid staff person at EMS.

He said he had town department directors review operations to determine if things could be done more efficiently.

“Times have changed and we need to look at how we do business,” he said.

The Board of Finance heard presentations on the budgets for the police, fire, public works, parks and recreation and human services departments tonight. It will continue its review Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

Deputy Police Chief David Heinmiller said last year police officials asked for two people to help with EMS, but they only received one person in the budget.

“We’ve come back for the other person,” he said.

With a rise in the number of calls and a fleet of volunteers riding the ambulances, more paid people are necessary to help oversee the operations, he said.

Kevin Connolly, a finance board member, questioned the necessity without making cuts elsewhere and made similar comments when reviewing the Fire Department budget.

He said the town’s Fire Department used to be the most expensive in the state and is still at number three because of smaller budget increases over the last few years.

“With a 4.5 percent increase, something has to be crowding out something else,” he said. “It will affect the rest of the budget.”

Places that could otherwise be kept down, he said, are increased such as overtime, sick leave and training.

Avi Kaner, a finance board member, said with the fire department the real issue is the minimum staffing levels required at each firehouse.

The only way to cut the costs, he said, is to reduce the number of firehouses.

Jeffrey Mayer, finance board chairman, said closing a firehouse would drop the town’s level of service.

Joseloff said the 13 firefighters on duty are facing bigger houses, and the first two who arrive at scene cannot do a lot.

“The two guys can’t put out the fire,” he said. “If it’s a mcmansion fire, the 13 firefighters won’t be able to do it and we’ll need mutual aid.”

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Posted 02/28/06 at 03:47 AM  Permalink



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