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Proposed Budget Rises $1.24M

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff delivered his newest version of the town budget to the RTM Finance Committee during a public hearing, April 20, in the Town Hall Auditorium. The budget requests $1.24 million returned  to Town departments.

Joseloff said, “I think many Westporters would be willing to pay a little more in taxes to keep the Westport they love.” Joseloff stressed that without $1.24 million town services would be reduced.

Asked to prioritize the restoration requests, Joseloff ranked public safety as the “No. 1 priority.” Much of the police and fire budgets revolved around staffing and overtime.

“I don’t have extra staffing that I can bounce back,” Fire Chief Christopher Ackley said. Questions were raised if he could reduce apparatus crews from three to two. The national average is four according to Ackley.

$200,000 for insurance costs is the chunk of the $1.24 million Joseloff wants restored. He asked for $150,000 to be returned to the fire department followed by $77,730 for the police department.

One item that garnered support from multiple departments was the funding to retain someone to manage the town’s GIS system. The system allows for different departments to call up map data quickly and efficiently

Town Clerk Patricia Strauss said she was looking to use a portion of fees collected by her offices from land filings to fund an $11,000 reduction to her staff’s salary line item. Redirecting those funds would require a transfer request.

The non-emergency response departments argued against reductions in their budgets along revenue generation lines. Tax Assessor Paul said the reduction in his budget would cut 20 percent of his staff. His department generates 92 percent of the town’s revenue by his estimation.

There was no vote following the public hearing. Chairman of the RTM Finance Committee Michael Rea said with the magnitude of adjustments the committee decided to hold off voting so everyone had adequate time to present. The RTM Finance Committee will meet, April 27, to make any final determinations in their recommendation and vote.

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