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Norwalk Council Tables Budget Cap Vote: “This Is Going to Be Very Hard”

The Norwalk Common Council discusses the 2024-25 budget cap.

The Norwalk Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday to table a vote on the preliminary budget cap, citing a need for additional information and time to review the full budget.

The line-by-line city budget was posted on Friday, according to Council members, with many asking for time to review it before voting on what the cap should be. According to the budget process outlined in the City Charter, the Council has until March 5 to set a cap, which then allows the Board of Estimate and Taxation to begin reviewing each department’s proposal. The Common Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 5, to vote on the cap. 

While the Council didn’t  vote, many members took the opportunity to share their concerns about what impact the city’s proposed $440.7 million budget, a 4% increase from last year’s, will have on residents.

Learn more about the proposed city budget.

“I think that something that all of us on the council should be thinking about is the effect this has on the people of Norwalk,” Council member Jalin Sead said. “Looking at these numbers, especially just with the reval, is scary.”

Both Sead and Council member Dajuan Wiggins expressed concerns about the impact of the increase in taxes on all residents, but particularly seniors and those on low or fixed incomes.

“We’re two people who might be kicked out because of the rising costs,” Sead said. 

Both said that they know almost more people who’ve left Norwalk after being priced out than they do people who still live here. 

“I’m just thinking—what’s the tradeoff when we raise our taxes?” Wiggins said. “How are their lives getting better?”

Wiggins said the “resources are not hitting the communities that they need to,” and if taxes do go up, residents should expect to see better services, which hasn’t always been the case.

“It’s scary, and it’s a tragedy, and I might be on the chopping block,” he said.

Council member Nicol Ayers also emphasized the need to look at the “quality of the service, not just the quantity.”

Resident Lisa Brinton,  one of two residents to speak at the meeting, shared how she recently downsized in an effort to save money on her taxes, which, when she lived in Rowayton, climbed from $6,600 in 1998 to $23,000 in 2021.

“How many other Norwalkers will have the privilege that I did to downsize and stay in this city?” she said. “The math doesn’t work for residents. This isn’t just a one-year problem. This is our new reality.”

Additional Resources

While Council members raised some concerns about the budget, others advocated for areas they felt needed funding. 

For example, Ayers stressed the need for more IT staff and support.

“It’s a department that is so crucial to the functioning of our city,” she said. “We need cybersecurity, period. We need better cybersecurity than we have.”

Council member Jenn McMurrer asked Tom Ellis, the city’s director of management and budget, to look at  the impact of a 4.5% or 5% increase. 

She said that she believed that Norwalk  “cannot continue to grow as a city” without providing adequate services, such as more police to keep residents safe or more funding for transportation projects to address traffic concerns.

“It is very admirable and absolutely correct that we need to spend only what we need to spend,” Council member Nora Niedzielski-Eichner said. “At the same time, I really hope that these conversations are also driven by where we can be more efficient.”

She asked about areas such as investing in IT and technology as well as in a grant writer, who  “would more than pay for themselves.”

Resident Diane Lauricella also expressed a desire for a full-time grant person, and advised Council members to try to find more savings.

“I suggest that you need to go back and scrub some more, because there are still some more savings that can be made,” she said.

Comments

3 responses to “Norwalk Council Tables Budget Cap Vote: “This Is Going to Be Very Hard””

  1. Joel Bedol

    I believe that city officials, by and large, do a good job of managing things. That said, I question the efforts toward efficiency and productivity in terms of the way departmental and Board of Education budgets are formulated. Additionally, the city seems to encourage- or at least not discourage – the notion that higher grand lists necessarily lead to higher taxes. It is not so. There is the matter of the mill rate to be considered as well and, of course, it all begins and ends with spending. I would encourage the Common Council and the Board of Estimate and Taxation to eliminate as much bloat as possible and encourage as much productivity and efficiency as possible before setting the budget cap, departmental and BofE budgets and the mill rate.

  2. Bryan Meek

    Please already. A majority on this council spent our money like there was no tomorrow and guess what? It’s tomorrow. The list is long, but worth repeating some items.

    $75k on a Halloween party not including traffic and safety overtime. Less than 2 months later two more businesses shuttered their operations at the precise intersection this took place.

    $42k to rent…RENT….a Christmas tree.

    $47k on an EV that doesn’t work and is collecting dust in the garage.

    $1.4 million on a skate park in the same year NHS computer science curriculum was eliminated due to budget pressures.

    They can posture all they want, they own this mess and it is only going to get much, much worse once we find out what NHS is really going to cost.

    And now our kids get to graduate in Bridgeport in the middle of the day since nothing else is available.

  3. Liz Conti

    It is not “very hard” to pass a budget with a 4-4.5% increase which makes sense with inflation. It is what they are not telling you as to how they are administrating the taxation inconsistently on you… with the revaluation and the “sweetheart” deals made, the residents here the longest will foot the bill for all the newcomers and overdevelopment. Don’t be fooled by their doublespeak. If the budget is up 4% and they tell you your taxes will be up 30% … that does not jive. The taxation revenue from the grand list needs to be equalized. There is discrimination regarding who is footing the bill here, that is blatantly obvious! Let’s ask the simple question, why are we going to pay 30% more on our taxes when the budget is only 4% more?

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