WESTPORT, Conn. – With hopes of hiring another police officer and having a full-time tree warden in town, Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff is requesting $75.6 million for next year’s town budget—an increase of approximately 2.5 percent over the current year’s spending.
In presenting his proposed budget Wednesday night to the Board of Finance, Joseloff said his top priority is public safety. As such, he believes it’s time to increase the size of the police force by one officer.
“This officer will work within the school system, and at the same time, free up other manpower to address quality of life issues such as speeding, cell phone use and running red lights,” Joseloff said. “In all my years in office, this has become increasingly a demand by our residents.”
Vigorously maintaining the town’s trees is equally important to ensuring public safety, Joseloff said. Last week, for example, a school bus full of students was trapped on Burr School Road due to a fallen tree in the roadway, he said.
Luckily, no one was hurt in that incident, but that isn’t always the case, Joseloff said. He reminded the finance board of the March 2010 incident in which a woman was killed on Park Lane by a falling tree.
“The reality is that a Westporter is more likely to be injured by a falling tree, or a speeding or distracted driver for that matter, than an armed intruder in a public space,” Joseloff said. “We can no longer look the other way and not recognize that we need to begin to manage our urban forest.”
This is why Joseloff is seeking additional funds for a full-time tree warden. Currently, the town’s tree warden works part time, but more time is needed to properly maintain the town’s trees, he said.
“Frankly, I don’t want it on my conscience that we knew about this problem but didn’t do anything about it,” said Joseloff. “And I hope you don’t either.” Joseloff is also requesting more funding to keep the town’s information technology systems up-to-date.
After Joseloff’s presentation, Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney presented the proposed schools budget. In all, the education board is requesting a $104.2 million spending package, which is 3.95 percent more than this year’s budget.
The finance board is scheduled to vote on the town budget March 19. The schools budget will be voted on at its March 21 meeting.
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