‘We're moving the city forward,' says Bergren; more police, firefighters would be hired in 2013
Norwich — The city manager on Monday presented the City Council with his $113.47 million budget proposal, the bulk of which represents public safety, education and city infrastructure needs.
The $113,472,991 proposed general fund budget is a 3.81 percent increase over this year's $109.3 million budget. The general fund tax rate is proposed to increase by 1.23 mills, to 25.99 mills.
"We're moving the city forward in several strategic areas," City Manager Alan Bergren said before the council meeting. "To be a vibrant city, we need to have people feel that our city is safe, that our infrastructure is in good repair so we can serve all of our residents and businesses, and pay attention to our education system.
"A community can only sit for so long in a treading-water mode. We need to create a forward momentum, chart our own destinies."
In an effort to move the city forward, nine positions have been added in the human resources, police, recreation and public works departments. Comptroller Joseph Ruffo said Monday that this was the first time in 10 years that there has been a net increase to staffing levels.
This month, the city will hire an assistant human resources director — a position the department has gone without since May 2009.
A new police sergeant would be paid for with Community Development Block Grant funds until Aug. 31, at which point the general fund would start paying for the sergeant's salary. In addition, the 2012-13 budget proposes that three new officers be hired in January 2013 and three more in April 2013. Those positions would round out patrols in Taftville, Greeneville and the downtown areas.
In February 2013, the Norwich Fire Department would also add two firefighters.
Two recreation facility positions which are currently funded at nine months in this year's budget would be funded year-round.
Lastly, a heavy-equipment operator and a janitor would be hired in the city's public works department.
In Bergren's budget proposal, the Board of Education budget stands at $69,185,856, a 1.5 percent increase over this year's budget.
The school board has recommended a 5 percent budget increase, bringing its proposed spending plan to $71.5 million. Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver said before the council meeting that she was already aware of Bergren's 1.5 percent increase proposal; she called the proposed increase "nearly impossible."
"We (the board) first came in with our original 'must have' budget, and that was a 2.82 percent increase. Then, the board came in with its 'should have, what is right for the kids' budget, which was a 5.01 percent increase," Dolliver said.
"The board went with that because they felt an obligation to the students, to provide them with access to what they should have. I don't know what to call a 1.5 percent increase."
She said that over the last four years, the school board has received $12 million less than they've requested in budget talks.
The City Council has set a tentative June 4 date to approve the budget.