By Ed Harris
Town Manager Garry Brumback has submitted a $45.9 million budget proposal that includes the doubling of the Information Technology Department’s allocation, which is earmarked to further implement a virtual town hall.
Brumback’s proposal is a $593,194 or 1.3 percent increase over last year’s $45.3 million budget. The increases in the proposed budget stem from a rise in capital requirements, though many of these increases are offset by revenue derived from an increase in state aid and the close out of some smaller projects, and an increase in medical insurance costs.
The budget proposal also funds the initial bonds for the middle school rehabilitation project and road improvements that were passed overwhelmingly at a recent referendum.
“We believe this budget balances the need to maintain our infrastructure while still recognizing the difficulties in our economy,” Brumback said in a letter accompanying his proposal. “We are not asking for additional employees but are focusing on providing our existing staff the tools and equipment they need to be more efficient…This budget funds all of our most pressing needs, asks only that current levels of service be preserved and funds the capital necessary to maintain our infrastructure.”
The proposal includes a 51.7 percent rise in the IT budget, increasing that allocation from $243,222 to $507,734. The increase deals with information technology and a virtual town hall that Brumback began implementing last year.
As it was outlined in last year’s budget proposal, Brumback hoped to implement the virtual town hall within three years through the town’s website, allowing residents and businessmen the option of conducting the bulk of their business online. This includes allowing residents and businesses the option of following along with the permit process online.
“Our IT budget continues to work toward a virtual town hall, and we have made a couple of advancements to that area in the form of a permitting process on line and an enhanced web page,” Brumback said.
The town is once again partnering with the Board of Education to help fund a grant writer position, along with looking for other ways to partner, with purchasing, human resources and maintenance being some possibilities.
The budget also includes a five-year Capital Improvement Plan that reflects work done collaboratively with the town and the school board. Brumback said that this supports the town’s goal of preserving aging infrastructure and methodically replacing some of the town’s most aged equipment.
A few weeks ago the Board of Education submitted an $85.3 million budget proposal, a 3.51 percent increase over last year’s budget. The school board had reduced about $900,000 from the proposal by School Supt. Dr. Joseph Erardi, which would have been a 4.87 percent increase.
If both the town government and school board budgets are passed as is, they would result in about a two-thirds of a mil increase in taxes, according to Town Council Chairman John Dobbins.
“This is definitely a tight budget,” Dobbins said of Brumback’s proposal. “I think that everyone has done a lot of work to keep the budget reasonable.”
A public hearing on both proposed budgets will be held on Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. at DePaolo Middle School.
The Board of Finance must adopt a budget by April 1 and submit it to the Town Council. In turn, the Town Council must adopt the budget no later than May 13.