City gets surprise reimbursement, 10 years in the works

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
The city found out last week it will be reimbursed for high school renovation projects that happened more than 10 years ago.
At last week’s Mayors Task Force on Budget and Efficiency, it was brought up that the city would be receiving $4.7 million from the state, thanks to review of legislation and city leaders advocating at the state level.
The $4.7 million will be split between two areas: $1.8 million will go to the remaining expenses of the projects, and the remaining funds of about $3 million will go towards the city’s contribution to the debt service payments, which will cover the next year-and-a-half.
“This is a major plus that we don’t have to pay this out of the general fund” for the next year and some, said John Smith, vice chairman of the Board of Finance.
Smith added the city has been carrying the remaining $1.8 million expense from the projects for years.
This information all came up, ironically, as the task force held a meeting to discuss final suggestions regarding cost saving measures within the city, and how to come up with ways to decrease the projected $7.5 million deficit.
Some topics raised during the meeting include a projected $350,000 savings from the city’s Public Works Department due to the new transfer station fees, as well as the possibility of a long-term savings if the city buys the street lights from Connecticut Light & Power. Another suggestion was to look into creating a shared vehicle fleet, and also buying city vehicles in bulk to get a savings.
In the city’s Parks Department, a hike in fees would save $100,000 in that department. In the longer run, the department is looking at sharing equipment with other departments like the Board of Education and public works to save money. Other suggestions made include turning to an electronic payroll and exploring methods to lower electric bills.
For the next fiscal year, the mayor is calling on all city departments to present a budget request of no more than a 2 percent increase from this year’s allocation. The requests are to be submitted by Jan. 18. The mayor also said, at his 2012-13 budget kickoff meeting, he wants each department to submit 10-year capital improvement plans only listing projects that are emergency, immediate, or absolutely essential.
The mayor is also asking departments to submit a list of services that would potentially cut their allocations by 10 percent from their current allotment to identify potential cuts to services and the impacts those would have on each department and the community.
The city is expected to be research a wellness program proposal that would be available for all municipal employees and spouses covered by the city’s insurance plan. Regarding workers’ compensation, the city also plans to ensure employees are using proper gear and equipment so they aren’t getting hurt, and try to prevent accidents that didn’t have to happen.
The task force has been working over the course of several months to find cost saving measures immediately and long-term. It has met with department heads, city officials including individuals from the Board of Education, council members, and has received input from city employees as well.