NORWALK, Conn. – With the realization that the city’s tax base has not fully rebounded in the still fragile economy, Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton is recommending the city spend about $19.6 million on capital improvements in the next fiscal year.
The city’s capital budget pays for large often one-time spending projects but also funds Public Works paving and large infrastructure purchases. Departments requested a total of $35.4 million, which Hamilton is recommending the city whittle down.
“Given the depth of the last recession and the tepid pace of recovery, it behooves us to proceed cautiously,” Hamilton said in a presentation to the Board of Estimate and Taxation, Common Council, Planning Commission and Mayor Richard Moccia. “We do not know when city revenues and tax base growth will begin to truly rebound, and my capital spending recommendations reflect the expectation that economic growth will remain muted for an indefinite period.”
Hamilton is recommending the city spend nearly $10 million of the capital budget on Public Works projects, such as repairs and improvements to municipal buildings, including the purchase of a large generator for City Hall, paving, and traffic and infrastructure upgrades.
For the Fire Department, Hamilton is recommending $400,000 for improvements to the Westport Avenue fire station. For Parks and Recreation, he is seeking about $750,000 for repairs to the seawall and fishing pier at Calf Pasture Beach. The pier has been damaged by two hurricanes in the last two years, and a portion of the city’s outlay would be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Hamilton is also recommending the city spend $2.7 million on the Board of Education, $2.1 million of which would go toward the first installment of the district’s multimillion-dollar plan to implement the state mandated Common Core Curriculum. The remaining $600,000 in Hamilton’s recommendation would go toward school security enhancements at $100,000 and new technology at $500,000.
Of the $19.6 million recommendation, about $15.6 million would be paid for through municipal bonds and taxes. That would raise the city’s current debt level about 3 percent to $222.3 million, Hamilton said.
“Meeting the capital needs of the city is of paramount importance in developing a recommended capital spending plan,” Hamilton said. “While favorable debt ratios are important, it is short-sighted to allow vital city infrastructure to deteriorate or to fail to invest in projects that have a demonstrable economic payback or which promote the city’s long-term economic vitality.”