Norwalk budget hearing nets just one public comment

The Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting Wednesday, as Diane Lauricella was talking. Mayor Harry Rilling was speaking to someone else.

NORWALK, Conn. — In honor of Earth Day, Norwalk resident Diane Lauricella requested that the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation include a few green initiatives into its 2020-21 operating budget, as well as move a grant writing position into the financial office.

Lauricella was the only member of the public to address the Board during its annual public hearing on the budget, which took place over Zoom on Wednesday, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lauricella said that she believed the city “missed many, many dollars of grants” by not having a full-time grant writer who solely was responsible for writing grants and bringing additional funding to the city.

“I do appreciate the Mayor speaking about looking for efficiencies in our budgeting process especially now that there be given serious consideration to remove the part-time grant position and put it into the Finance Department as a full-time position,” she said. “They should be able to pay for their position…I do think if it was placed in the Finance Department then you would have a better accounting of data and we could realize some really great grants.”

Lauricella also advocated for optimizing the city’s recycling program, adding solar to city buildings and carports, and other sustainable initiatives.

The city’s Common Council established a cap on the operating budget of about $385 million, which results in an average mill rate of 23.875, about a 2.975 percent increase from fiscal year 2020.

Mayor Harry Rilling said that this budget was put together in “very challenging times.”

“We don’t know what the situation will be going forward,” he said. “We don’t know what our expenditures will be. We’re not sure of a lot of things regarding the revenue collection, or revenue expectations that we have, from property taxes, from state revenue, from other kinds of revenue fees that we normally expect, so we’re in uncharted waters, not knowing what the future holds.”

Rilling said that they wanted to “keep our tax levy as low as we possibly could…keep city services at a level that people expect and they deserve” and “have a buffer in place” in case of extra expenses that popped up or a drop in revenue.

He also said he asked his team to utilize this time to evaluate their current work flows for effectiveness.

“We’re at a time where we have an opportunity to analyze the effectiveness of our city government,” he said. “This situation has put us in a position of having to do things we never anticipated. So I asked my cabinet to start looking at things that they were able to do effectively under the conditions in which we find ourselves.”


7 responses to “Norwalk budget hearing nets just one public comment”

  1. John Levin

    Yay Diane Lauricella! Thank you for showing up, AND for offering some terrific ideas. Do other CT cities like Norwalk employ grant writers to fund special projects? Do they show success? If yes, then I would think that hiring a full time grant writer (reporting to the Finance Dept) is pretty compelling. Of course it would be an experiment, and that’s okay, surely it’s worth a try if other cities do it? And rooftop solar for school and city buildings seems like it could be made to work. Maybe something for a grant writer to work on?

  2. Patrick Cooper

    @John Levin – Norwalk HAD a grant writer – but that position was turned into Josh Morgan – Harry’s junior minister of propaganda. You can read up on it via old NoN articles….

    How many grants has Mr. Morgan secured? Simple, verifiable question.

  3. Audrey Cozzarin

    Kudos to and appreciation for Diane Lauricella, our #1 Norwalk Model Citizen. Norwalk needs to utilize clean energy paired with employing best practices for waste management (recycling, food waste collection, composting, encouraging residents to live more simply/sustainably to cut back on waste altogether). It’s good for the “City” (saving $$) AND Mother Earth.

    I do expect Norwalk’s elected/paid leaders to start moving forward with real initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. Among the many consultants hired by the city, could there be room for 1 more? Let’s get some grants and move forward! I recommend a true and tireless asset for this role, Diane L.

  4. Bryan Meek

    This city and state gave up on recycling a long time ago. However, we still get to pay for two fleets of trucks to drive around burning and spewing diesel exhaust to pick up trash that ends up in the same place.

    We could have one of those fleets repurposed to pick up leaves like they do in Stamford, but then who would get to play God with the generous hours at the leaf dump? We should be so blessed and lucky to have our government dare to open an outdoor facility next to the sewage plant for a whopping 8 hours out of 168 a week. Makes me feel good about my 5% tax increase coming.

    In the 21st century we couldn’t possibly have someone sit in a booth a mile away and buzz a gate open, dare I say even automate it like most clubs and marinas figured out 40 years ago.

    Hopefully the reusable plastic bag never goes away again. Paper pulp is needed more now than ever to ship goods and should not be wasted on grocery bags, when the carbon footprint is considerably more than plastic, which can be recycled into just about anything you can imagine. But overall, that is our biggest problem here, no imagination.

  5. Tom Belmont

    Carbon Dioxide is an essential ingredient to Life; its continuation, its survival and its replenishment. We must not resort to middle age science of the 1400’s that relied on political leaders to dictate false notions and fraudulent science principles. Please….stop the junk science.

  6. Eleanor Lx

    It is refreshing to see the state and localities rescind the plastic bag ban for groceries and I know grass root efforts are underway to make this permanent due to public safety & health. CT has finally come to its senses on this issue by overturning what should have never taken place. Going forward, I would encourage the Common Council to focus on making the city more affordable rather than wasting energies on meaningless initiatives.

  7. Audrey Cozzarin

    I can’t wait to move away from Norwalk.

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