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Your voice needed: Operating Budget Cap Public Hearing Thursday at 6:30

Send signed letters to [email protected]

Think of the phrase “Qui Tacit Consentiri” or “To remain silent is consent.”

Tonight is one of the first opportunities to publicly influence the City at an online meeting of the Council Finance and Claims Committee at 6:30 p.m. Residents, it’s that time again for the annual public vetting of the Operating Budget, the portion of the City’s Budget that funds things like staff salaries, training, studies, insurance, electricity, natural gas, and even yard waste. It also includes revenue production such as tax collection, grants and permit fees. You may ask, “Why should I care”? “How could my email or testimony make a difference”? Our daily lives are influenced by the City Operating Budget.

Some food for thought to prepare for this Operating Budget Season: Is one department request causing other department operations to suffer? Has the reorganization at City Hall helped the bottom line? Would vigorous enforcement fines raise more revenue? Is there a need for a full time Grant Writer that would pay for itself? What staff positions are nice, but not necessary? Could we save bigger bucks if we used solar and geothermal technologies more actively on City buildings? Should we ask for a cap on any outside legal consultants? Are we getting the “bang for the buck” in our senior staff? How will the ongoing pandemic reduce the Operating Budget, if at all? By cutting waste, we could have more money for the kids….and the residents…

Tonight’s virtual public hearing allows any resident to let the Council know on the record whether they should vote to keep the preliminary spending cap calculated by the Finance Department as is, raise it, or….even lower it. In order to speak or just watch, enter and scroll down to the listing for Finance and Claims Committee and click on the Zoom link. Then click on the “Raise Hand” button or phone in using the Web ID number listing in the same Meeting-Notice listing.

You can find a partial Operating Budget draft…..wait…it’s not available to the public online as of early Thursday morning? May this necessitate a hearing delay?

Please know that participating in your government by getting to know your budget is an excellent way to keep our democracy intact and let your local representatives know you are checking to ensure that your hard-earned money is being spent wisely. Years ago, I held a brown bag lunch at City Hall about the Operating Budget with the then-BET Chair Fred Wilms….maybe we should have a public Zoom meeting about each of the budgets…I’ll check…

The Fiscal Year of the City begins July 1st of each year, and plans begin a few months after that to prepare the next Fiscal Year’s budgets. The Operating Budget process follows a calendar, which you can find here.

Departments begin to lay out the next year’s operating spending and revenues in the Fall. Ideally, the public could influence annual budget-making throughout the year by offering ideas that could cut spending or produce cash…..as much as your government listens. The next opportunity after tonight to influence the Operating Budget is from March 3-22 when the City’s appointed Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) interviews each Department. That Schedule is here.

As Departments come in for interviews in March, you can make your views known. While the BET Public Hearing is not until March 24 at 6:30 pm, you can still influence BET and the Mayor (a BET member) via Op-Ed, emails and social media.

Diane Lauricella

3 comments

Stuart Wells February 18, 2021 at 6:31 am

While I applaud Ms. Lauricella’s nostalgia for the classics, I think that all Latin phrases, such as “Qui Tacit Consentiri”, should be required to be printed in barcode font, in order to be more relevant today. Or, in the alternative, all the budget numbers could be rendered in roman numerals.

Jason Milligan February 18, 2021 at 7:18 am

“ Should we ask for a cap on any outside legal consultants?”

Absolutely! But 1st the public needs to see exactly how much money is spent on legal.

Norwalk spends an awful lot of money on litigation and other legal work.

Law firms & individual attorneys & their spouses are perhaps the biggest campaign contributors. Lawyers donate for a reason.

Figuring out how much is spent on outside lawyers is not easy. The amounts are hidden in so many different department and agency budgets. Most lawsuits are only discussed in executive sessions.

It would be great to see separate the accounting for all outside legal work in one place.

POKO is one example of huge outside legal expense.
It can & should be settled.

Why no settlement?

The outside law firms make more money in the court room. They have little incentive to settle.

Poor incentives combined with the limited transparency of lawsuits cause Norwalk to waste money.

Please demand a full, proper accounting of all money spent on legal. It should all be summarized in one place. Once we see it there is no doubt it can be cut down!

Cut the legal bill and then maybe the library and the schools can get the laptops or other stuff the article said they need.

Audrey Cozzarin February 18, 2021 at 4:12 pm

I would like to commend Diane Lauricella for explaining nicely how residents can become better informed and engaged in civic life, by giving not only good links and info, but encouragement to step up and add our voices during the budget process.

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