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Joseloff’s Budget to Increase Over 5.5 Percent

By Jennifer Connic

Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff this week presented a preliminary 2007-08 budget proposal that includes a 5.8 percent increase, but he said the figures may change before it is formally presented to the Board of Finance on March 7.

Joseloff’s proposal is $57.4 million. Combined with education costs, which include a requested operating budget increase of 8.4 percent, the total budget proposal is $161.2 million, which is a 7.5 percent increase over the current budget.

Joseloff said his budget proposal will change before its formal submission, but he expects the increase to be 5.5-5.7 percent. Town officials may be able to create some savings, including in the insurance account, before the submission.

Fixed costs including rising utility prices and contracted salary increases are partly driving the budget increase, Joseloff said, but there are new initiatives included in his proposal.

The proposal includes a plan to phase-in 16 new firefighters at the Westport Fire Department over the next three years, upgrading a zoning inspector to full-time, a new Historic District Commission employee, a new position to oversee the Geographic Information Systems database, and a part-time parks planner.

While the proposed budget increase is higher than the previous year’s 4.9 percent, Joseloff said, he hopes in the end additional revenue will help reduce the impact.

Proposals for the state budget, he said, could bring more state grants to Westport, including $800,000 for education costs and $400,000 because Sherwood Island State Park is located in Westport.

Additionally, town officials are receiving money from Connecticut Light and Power for leasing property for the high-voltage power line project, Joseloff said.

There is also an increase in the rent with a new lease for the Inn at Longshore, he said.

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