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.”