Rilling: City needs to move past NEON problems to ensure social services; budget is a ‘challenge’

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling gives his State of the City speech Monday morning at City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Harry Rilling appeared to rattle the saber toward Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) during his State of the City speech Monday morning at City Hall.

NEON was among “significant challenges” his administration has faced in his first 100 days as Norwalk’s mayor, he said.

“We are struggling with our community action program,” Rilling said in his address. “Efforts are still under way to resolve that situation. NEON employees have been paid and meetings are being held to determine the future of the community action program in Norwalk.

“It is my promise to stay on top of this issue in order to ensure social services are delivered to those in need,” he said. “We need this to happen sooner rather than delaying this process any longer. We can’t wait. There are people in the community who need those social services. Those services are not being delivered while we continue to have discussions. Well, I’m going to move forward and make sure that we do the right thing for those people and that they finally get the services to which they are entitled.”

Rilling said he was on a conference call with NEON leaders Sunday night. “We have to get moving forward sooner rather than later,” he said. “As we speak about it, people are going without social services to which they are entitled. I want to make sure that we put something in place that will be effective and will be delivering those services to the people that need it. It’s my desire become fruitful sooner rather than later.”

Other significant challenges for the new mayor include the snowy weather — “probably in the top five or seven of all time for the city of Norwalk” — and being dropped into the budget process with a revaluation under way.

“Assuming office in the middle of a budget cycle certainly can be challenging indeed,” he said. “However, working closely with the Finance Department and department heads … we put together what we consider to be a very lean budget recommendation.”

While the 2014-15 operating budget is $9.4 million more than its predecessor, $7.6 million (or 84 percent) is due to contractually mandated expenses and pension funds that were negotiated before he came on board, he said.

“Reviewing the budget with Mr. Hamilton, I cut more than $3 million from department head requests,” he said.

The resulting budget fully funds the Board of Education, said Rilling, who called Superintendent Manny Rivera’s budget request “reasonable.” It also provides for library hours on Sunday during the school year and School Resource Officers at the high schools and middle schools, he said.

Rilling promised to have official city email addresses created for the volunteers on city boards and commissions, and said city government may stop going through so much paper.

Council members will be provided devices to download agendas and back-up materials in a pilot program Rilling is hoping to start in the next week or two, he said. The city email address will ensure privacy for the volunteers.

“It has nothing to do with the recent issue of a commissioner’s email being subpoenaed,” he said. “This is something that I mentioned going in. I know that if you use your private email for city business then everything within your private email can be open to scrutiny if they were looking for certain things within your email.”

A subpoena would allow lawyers to search for key words in emails even if the majority of those emails were personal, as long as the email address was being used for city business, he said.

“I want to protect the privacy rights of people who serve for virtually no money at all. … I felt that for a long time, even when I was a police chief,” he said.


11 responses to “Rilling: City needs to move past NEON problems to ensure social services; budget is a ‘challenge’”

  1. anonymous

    Will Rilling dramatically reduce public employee salary increases and benefits when he gets the chance? Let’s hope so since a ridiculous 84% of the increases goes to our highly paid public servants. What is Rilling going to do about that for the contracts that he will be part of.

    @Chapman,can you find out who is paying for the devices to download agendas for the Common Council pilot–Grant or taxpayer funded?

  2. “Well, I’m going to move forward and make sure that we do the right thing for those people and that they finally get the services to which they are entitled.”
    There you have it folks, Rilling is going to give taxpayers money to a COMPLETELY INEPT AND CRIMINAL management team/organization.
    WAY TO GO RILLING …. you and Duff must be best buddies.

  3. Dawn

    At least the Mayor of Norwalk has acknowledge the need for the services.
    Yerwood Center in Stamford is closing and Mayor David Matin has yet to even meet with the staff. But then again its not an election year!!

    Martin is on his book signing agenda!!!

  4. Dawn

    Hate to Judge but but we know, once they get into office, its business as usual. The little people dont matter, its the behind close door meetings that the highlight.

  5. Missy Conrad

    Is that the Public library that will have Sunday hours during the school year? That would be wonderful and so appropriate for our city. We have not even been “Separate but Equal” in our services to our citizens & residents. A public library is a community treasure; ours has good places for teens, which is such a necessity for them.
    Finally, the packets for our Councilpeople will be accessible by computer. This will save paper & car trips, etc. Our Councilpeople serve at a stipend set years & years ago. Democracy is not free, & the cost should be supported by us all who benefit from it. Public financing would take out the private pressures, &, also important, free up those in government from spending so much time fund-raising.

  6. Piberman

    Prior to taking office Mayor Rilling was certainly aware of Norwalk’s decades long history of excessive spending and salaries relative our City’s modest average incomes. Retaining the same administrative team and failing to appoint senior level financial mgmt expertise to the BET all but guarantees lack of success in restraining City spending. So far no explanation of why the former Board Chairman of NEON was appointed to BET – a highly questionable and perplexing appointment.
    As the first Mayor in decades taking office with the advantage of a well functioning BOE Mayor Rilling seems very reluctant to take actions characteristic of a transforming Mayor. Maybe Norwalk is simply incapable of electing officials who can restrain spending by holding budgets unchanged or even reducing spending. So far Mayor Rilling’s legacy looks like increased taxes, spending and continued property stagnation. Sadly Just like his predecessors.

  7. spanner

    School Resource Officers at the high schools and middle schools no doubt is important and can’t be ignored.Did our State reps have any way of finding Norwalk some money for this?

    The subject of crossing gaurds and how Norwalk Police officers continue to fill in during school hours when regular crossing gaurds call in sick.This is an issue that has been hidden from sight over the years taking away vital resouces to the city for years.

    Not that it isn’t good to see an officer with a cruiser interacting with our children obviously slowing down traffic at all schools with or without cross walks (Hal seems to think that crosswalks instill false securties with our kids,that safety exits if crosswalks are there and gaurds are not)

    There is no formula for when Norwalk PD has to assign an officer and a cruiser for up to an hour at a school sometimes more than one school in any given day.

    Who covers the city who covers that area the officer needs to be in at any given time to respond?Its just not crime its emergency response to medical calls,fire calls,bridge strikes and many other things that keep our police dept busy during the day.

    What is the deal with crossing gaurds what is the cost? Where is the breakdown or are they volunteers,do they have medical what account are they paid out of,who is in charge of them?What is the real deal.

    When up to 2 hours of any 1 officers shift could be in front of a school and as many as three at any given time are used to cover crossings it adds up is there spare crossing gaurds and are there full time ones who cover summer school as well?

    Someone suggested the school is in charge,some say the police dept,no one seems to know how many gaurds we are talking about.



    I was just on the CL and P website section for financial assistance paying your bill. Nowhere does it list where a Norwalk resident should call for assistance. But it does say Stamford residents sould call NEON of Stamford.
    I thought the name was not changed. I guess someone sent out the wrong memo.

  9. Al Bore

    “Well, I’m going to move forward and make sure that we do the right thing for those people and that they finally get the services to which they are entitled.”

    Meanwhile I am entitled to pay more taxes to cover the cost of more entitlements.

  10. Big Daddy

    I have been waiting for that for a while now

  11. lightning

    NEON employees have not been paid. Some of us paid hundreds of dollars to keep our insurances that we already paid through wage deductions, that we never paid. Also our vacation time etc.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments