In front of an audience that was larger than expected, Montville staffers and board members rose to ask the Town Council not to cut positions, while citizens rose and, for the most part, asked for moderation in the budget and the town’s taxes.
The public hearing on the mayor’s proposed budget was not as crowded as the public hearing on the schools budget had been the night before, but the Town Council chamber was healthily full of opinionated people on Thursday.
The of $18,599,969 includes reductions in hours for four positions. Click to open a PDF of the budget.
An assistant planner’s position would be cut from 40 hours to 20 hours. An administrative assistant in the planning department would see hours cut from 40 to 30. An administrative assistant in the Parks & Recreation department would see a cut in hours from 40 to 20, and a secretary in the Youth Services Bureau would be cut from 25 to 20.
Daniel Dunn, chairman of the Youth Advisory Board, asked the council not to cut the hours of the YSB secretary’s position.
The has asked for a zero percent increase for the past five budget years, Dunn said, apart from contractual obligations. The secretary position already was reduced in 2005, from 40 hours to 25 hours, so that YSB could staff the popular after-school program.
“We continue to feel that Montville Youth Services offers a great deal of ‘bang for the buck,’” Dunn said, reading from a letter he had written to the council, “and in both prosperous and tough economies, Youth Services remains consistent in its mission to deliver both quality, warranted programs and services to the youth and families in the Montville community.”
Alan Marcus, chairman of the Planning & Zoning Committee, spoke about the many departments and functions for which the Planning Department provides staff – Planning, Zoning, Coastal Area Management, Inland Wetlands, Economic Development and more.
The mayor’s budget would cut the hours of an administrative assistant and an assistant planner.
The administrative assistant supports all of these areas and, in addition “has a very large amount of land-use knowledge,” he said.
The assistant planner not only works in part as a planner, he said, but also as a zoning enforcement officer.
Enforcement officers, he said, “need to be bulldogs. They’re abrasive, they draw a lot of complaints. For every complaint you see, he’s seen a couple hundred. In court, we prevail.”
In addition, the work that Marcia Vlaun has been doing as project manager for the Public Safety Building is work that, typically, a town would contract out, he said. The planning department is doing it in-house, saving the town $70,000 - $90,000, Marcus estimated; while Vlaun is working in that capacity, the assistant planner is taking on her duties, he said.
Peter Bushway, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, stepped up to ask the council not to cut the hours of the administrative assistant in his department.
Parks & Rec programs have been growing, he said. Participation is up, as well. There are dance programs, zumba, yoga, karate and more being offered. The holiday parade has been improved and expanded, facility requests are increasing, there are two Camp Oakdale leagues, the Master’s road race has grown, as has the Easter Egg Hunt, and many other programs.
The administrative assistant not only provides training and support for all of these programs, but also greets people when they call or come into the office, and maintains the financial and registration information, Bushway said.
“We are growing, not shrinking,” he said, and asked that the position not be cut.
Not everyone asked for the mayor’s budget to be increased.
Stan Gwudz, chairman of the Parks & Rec Commission, did ask the council to consider keeping the administrative position fully funded.
But wearing his citizent/taxpayer hat, he asked the council to “sharpen your pencils.”
“We’re still a blue-collar town paying white-collar taxes,” he said.
Lee Holt rose to ask that money be put aside to fix the Montville Road bridge, which washed out in a flood four years ago.
Mayor Joe Jaskiewicz said Montville and Norwich are talking about the project, and he hopes to have money in the capital budget to do the work.
Holt wondered how the town can come up with money to fight the sex offender facility but not to fix the bridge.
Dave Rowley, chairman of the school board, works as a Montville Police officer. He spoke to talk about the need to keep the police department intact, and, specifically, to do everything that needs to be done to keep Sgt. Collins as the resident state trooper.
“He is the best of the best,” Rowley said. “He’s the real deal. Let’s not let him escape. Keep him on the job here in Montville.”
congratulated the mayor on the job he did on the difficult task of building a budget. He als spoke in favor of keeping the planning and zoning budget intact, and not cutting hours for any position.
“I can’t emphasize more than ever that that is a very vital group of people that is needed in this town,” he said. “They definitely save the town a lot of money. I know people always try to do things without permits and stuff – it’s just human nature. When they catch them, that’s more tax dollars for the town of Montville. They do a great job for this town, and I don’t believe you should be cutting back the hours.”
He, and later, Jon Leonard, asked the council instead to consider cutting the hours or eliminating the position of Human Resources Director.
The planning department personnel whose hours would be cut, Andriote said, “have been doing work for many many years. The human resources person is a brand-new person in the town of Montville,” he said.
Leonard, who works as a dispatcher, echoed Andriote’s sentiments. He also suggested that the town put off buying a fire truck.
“I think we can get by for one more year” without one, he said.