NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s tax-supported debt would drop ever so slightly with Finance Director Thomas Hamilton’s 2015-15 recommended capital budget, released Friday.
While the amount bonded in 2014-15 was $19.9 million, the amount recommended for bonding in 2015-16 is just over $17.1 million. The actual capital expenditure would be $33,858,261, up from $32,541,265. The per capita debt would drop from $2,470 in FY 14-15 to $2,464 in FY 15-16.
The budget emphasizes infrastructure maintenance and improvements, Hamilton said. It includes $5.5 million for road paving and $1.1 million for sidewalks — the largest appropriations in the Norwalk’s history for these Department of Public Works projects, Hamilton said. DPW is recommended to receive nearly $10.2 million, $1.4 million more than last year.
The budget includes $4 million for the Water Pollution Control Authority, which will be paid for with WPCA fees. DPW Director Hal Alvord said Thursday that although the city is not giving up its court battle to get Flowserve to pay to replace its new pumps at the sewage treatment plant, it is necessary to replace them now, a cost of $3 million. The WPCA hopes to recoup the money.
“The recommended capital budget for FY 2014-15 totals $21,762,000,” Hamilton wrote. “With offsetting revenues and other repayment sources, the total amount that will be bonded and repaid from property taxes is $17,133,000. With the city’s existing debt profile, this is the maximum amount of additional debt that the city can safely afford, while still maintaining favorable debt ratio benchmarks and limiting the impact on future operating budgets.”
The five-year capital budget plan tells a different story.
“The city’s annual debt service paid from property taxes is projected to increase from $25.8 million in FY 2014-15 to $30.6 million in FY 2019-20, an increase of $4.8 million or 18.6 percent over the next five years. With a current tax levy of approximately $284.9 million, the increase in debt service will cause a 1.7 percent tax increase over the next five years,” Hamilton wrote.
The plan includes a total of $23.2 million for Board of Education capital projects over the next five years. This includes funds to complete Phase II of the Norwalk Early Childhood Center at Roosevelt School; install building management systems at all schools; replace windows at West Rocks Middle School; upgrade fire alarm systems; and construct improvements to Jefferson and Cranbury elementary schools. In addition, state reimbursement typically amounts to approximately 30 percent of major building projects, and the city would appropriate these funds after the state approves each project, and the amount of the reimbursement can more accurately be determined, Hamilton stated.
The plan includes:
- $38,000 for the replacement of tactical vests.
- $220,000 to upgrade radio communications and to improve radio coverage.
- $250,000 for the following projects: $95,000 for vehicle replacement; $35,000 for various station repairs; and $120,000 for paving fire station parking areas.
The department’s recommended budget totals $10,197,000. The largest projects are:
- Building management total $1.4 million: City Hall roof replacement, security notification system, and air conditioning system filtration system – $706,000; Public Works Center repairs and improvements – $218,000; Nathaniel Ely window replacement – $160,000; Lockwood House ADA accessibility – $80,000; other building improvements, various locations – $239,000.
- Bridges total $296,000: Residual funding required for the 20 percent city match requirement for the Perry Avenue Bridge over the Norwalk River.
- Fleet total $330,000: One 37,000-pound dump truck – $220,000; F-550 dump truck – $45,000; flatbed truck – $40,000; and drainage attachments – $25,000.
- Road reconstruction total $6.1 million: City’s pavement management program, $5.5 million; and Norwalk River Valley Trail 20 percent local match – $600,000.
- Sidewalks total $1,128,000: Citywide sidewalk and curbing appropriation – $1 million; footpath replacement – $100,000; and sidewalks & curbs – city buildings, $28,000.
- Storm water management total $350,000: $250,000 for general drainage repair, and $100,000 for storm water management.
“In addition, while no funds were recommended for watercourse maintenance in the FY 2015-16 capital budget, the department recently requested that the city close out a completed capital project (Buckingham Lockwood Drainage Improvement Project) with an available balance of $876,000, and that these surplus capital funds be appropriated for Watercourse Maintenance,” Hamilton wrote.
- Traffic management total $400,000: $250,000 for traffic signal upgrades, and $150,000 for striping and signage (including bike lanes).
- Tree planting total $50,000: Annual appropriation for citywide tree planting.
- Transfer station total $140,000: For the replacement of the third municipal solid waste compactor. The replacement of the first two compactors was funded in FY 2014-15.
Water Pollution Control Authority
- All debt service associated with WPCA projects will be repaid from the revenues of the WPCA. The department’s recommended budget totals $4 million for the following projects: main lift pump replacement, $3 million; Ely Avenue/Bouton Street hydraulic repair, $1 million.
Board of Education
- $2,282,000 for the following projects: Norwalk Early Childhood Center – Phase II, $557,000; district Building Management System (BMS), $500,000 per year in each of the next two years; district technology plan, $750,000; West Rocks Middle School window replacement, $75,000 for design, with construction to follow in FY 2016-17; district paving and curbing, $350,000; district fire alarm system upgrades, $50,000.
Recreation and Parks
- $2,163,000 for the following projects: Veteran’s Memorial Park boat launch ramp replacement, $800,000; Brien McMahon School turf field replacement, $500,000; Cranbury/Gallaher Estate, $350,000; vehicles, $188,000; basketball and tennis court refurbishment, $100,000; school and park playgrounds, $90,000; backstop and fencing replacement, $50,000; open space fund, $50,000; and tree planting, $35,000.
- $62,000 for the following projects: SoNo Library auditorium soundproofing, $18,000; children’s room renovations, $23,000; and Norwalk newspaper digitization, $21,000.
- $510,000 for the following projects: Mathews Park Buildings Restoration, $40,000; Lockwood Mathews Mansion roof, $216,000; Mill Hill Master Plan-ADA access, $94,000; Lockwood House Museum-ADA access, $100,000; WPA murals conservation, $25,000; Lockwood Mathews Mansion improvements (rewiring), $25,000; and cemetery site work, $10,000.
- $1,325,000 for the following projects: Choice Neighborhoods District (infrastructure improvements), $1.3 million; public art, $25,000.
- $465,000 for all citywide Information Technology projects, including funding for the city’s technology refresh program. The recommended amount reflects the fact that the IT Director Karen Delvecchio recently identified $195,000 in surplus funds, available from prior year capital appropriations, that can be applied toward the cost of the projects planned for FY 2015-16.
- No funds are recommended for the Health Department in FY 2015-16. The item requested by the department will be funded from the city’s insurance fund.
Human Relations and Fair Rent
- The department’s recommended budget totals $250,000 for the continuation of the citywide ADA compliance projects.
“A total of $163.4 million has been requested from the various departments for the five-year capital improvement program,” Hamilton wrote. “In the first year, the requests total $32 million. While all of the capital requests have merit, the city does not have the financial capacity to fund them all while maintaining its debt benchmarks within the parameters required by the rating agencies. Moreover, if all of the requests were approved, it would result in substantially higher debt service obligations and would cause property taxes to increase further. For this reason, I am recommending trimming back the requests to a gross total of $124.3 million over the five-year period. The portion of this amount that would be repaid from property taxes is $98.4 million. For the upcoming FY 2015-16, I have recommended a gross capital budget of $21.8 million whose net amount to be repaid from future property taxes is $17.1 million.”