Ways & Means budget talks began this week
By Sara Brown
Mayor Brian Arrigo officially presented the City Council with the FY19 budget at Monday’s City Council meeting. The proposed budget is $206,992,903, which is a 1.43 percent increase of last year’s budget of $204,064,961. “This budget does not waste a dime,” said Arrigo.
Some of the highlights are five new laborers for the Department of Public Works, three new police officers, four new firefighters and a three percent decrease in the water and sewer bill for homeowners. The budget also includes $150,000 for rodent management. This will go into creating a uniform trash program to help with the rodent problem that has been pestering the city. Once the budget is approved, the city will be handing out 65-gallon covered trash barrels that will be required for municipal trash collection.
The Ways and Means Subcommittee also started to dissect the budget this past week. Subcommittee Chairman Dan Rizzo said the first few meetings will be to meet with department heads and discuss their budgets. On June 25, the council will meet and start debating cuts to the budget.
At the June 20 Ways and Means Subcommittee meeting, public safety took center stage as Fire Chief Chris Bright appeared before the council to request additional firefighters and the filling of a new administrative staff position, which he stated is allowed by the budget. “It is desperately needed,” he said.
Police Chief James Guido said the budget allows for a new community engagement position. When Guido first became chief, almost a year ago, he created a community engagement department. “We want to expand on that,” he said. “We always want to engage with the community. We want to be more engaged with the minority community in the city.”
Guido said new police officers are needed badly in the city. “You will see a big improvement in visibility,” he said.
Guido plans on retiring in a few years, so he said the city and the mayor need to start thinking about the hiring process for his replacement.
During the regular City Council meeting, Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo asked the mayor when he could see the audit of the city from two years ago. Arrigo said the audit is in draft form, and when it is complete, the entire council will get a copy of it. “Two years for an audit is unheard of,” said Rotondo. “I don’t think any mayor I have worked with has treated me with such disrespect.”
“Unfortunately, you’ve let politics seep into what we’re doing here tonight,” Arrigo said. “We are doing the people’s business in this chamber, and we have no room for politics. We have some great things that are happening.”