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Budget Crunch Time in Greenwich

First Selectman will present his 2013-24 budget proposal on Feb. 4. In the meantime, residents can give their opinions on the Capital Improvement Plan projects at a hearing later this month.

 

The budget plan First Selectman Peter Tesei is finalizing for 2013-14 has an increase of just over 1 percent.

And that 1.18 percent increase is mostly coming from contractual obligations for salaries, health care and pensions, according to Tesei. As it stands now, Tesei is looking at a proposed town budget of $106,997,608. The current budget is $105,750,606.

"We cannot dramatically cut without eliminating services. We reduced the headcount dramatically in 2009," Tesei said. The town's health care costs are pegged at $47.450 million, up from $45,320 million this year. 

"We have a contract with Cigna until the end of the year. We will RFP (request for proposals) for 2014 health insurance. Right now we have six months of certainty (of costs) and six months of uncertainty," Tesei said.

The town's pension costs are expected to rise from $16.4 million to $19.8 million and salaries will increase from $56.1 million to $57.3 million, according to Tesei's tentative budget plan.

The budget proposed by Greenwich School Superintendent William McKersie includes a 1.97 percent increase to $142,099,644, including utilities. The current budget, including utilities, is $139,357,220.

Tesei is now wrangling with the capital improvements budget with requests totaling $61 million. His draft capital budget (CIP) stands at $57.7 million, with the major project being $20 million for the new Central Fire House. 

However, there are $61 million in capital requests. "All $61 million come with a validation of need," Tesei said. Tesei also said that he wants to reduce the capital budget proposal to about $54 million so that the tax increase for next year remains at about 2 percent.

"If I don't take it from the CIP, then we'll have to split $4 million between us and the schools and that would mean layoffs," Tesei said. "The question that needs to be asked is that do the departments requesting the money, can they spend the money in the year they request it?"

The Board of Education was asked to submit an $8 million capital budget. However, McKersie remained steadfast in submitting a $10 million capital projects plan.

In addition to the Central Fire House, an upgrading of the town's emergency radio and dispatch system is proposed with a $5 million pricetag. Other projects include $650,000 for an emergency generator and improved exterior lighting at Eastern Middle School which is  used as an emergency shelter; $820,000 to complete the North Street School parking lot project, build a storage shed for New Lebanon School and improve parking at Riverside School; $1.1 million to replace windows at Western Middle and Riverside schools, and replace doors at North Mianus and Cos Cob schools; $2 million for a new human resources/payroll system.

To see the complete draft of capital projects, see the PDF at right.

The way his proposed fiscal plan stands, residents can expect to continue to receive the services they're accustomed to, Tesei said. "We want to assure that we continue with the current services. What we're hearing from a sampling of residents is that they prefer a consistent, stable modest increases (in taxes)."

The Board of Estimate and Taxation Budget Chair Joseph Pellegrino has been a proponent of a maximum tax increase of 2 percent.

The next Capital Improvement Program Projects Committee Meeting will be at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 15 in the Cone Room of Greenwich Town  Hall. The meeting is open to the public.  The CIP public hearing will be held at 7 p.m., Jan. 28 in the Cone Room.

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