The Board of Finance turned its eye on the proposed municipal budget at its meeting on Thursday, February 28, and approved a transfer in the current budget to cover costs for software to enable police to monitor videos at Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School in real time.
The $174,000 transfer from the Board of Selectman’s 2012-13 Contingency Account to its Capital Account was made to cover the cost of buying software to install in Newtown Police Department cruisers to allow users to monitor video surveillance feeds from cameras set up at Sandy Hook School, located at Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School. The $174,000 cost, First Selectman Pat Llodra said, is “highly” expected to be covered by a grant.
Mrs Llodra also said it is anticipated that cameras will be purchased for all of Newtown’s public schools, and the software purchased for Chalk Hill will also work with those cameras. The cameras installed at Chalk Hill were donated following the events of 12/14.
The Newtown Board of Education voted January 17 to accept the 30 real-time security cameras, and also unanimously passed a new surveillance policy to allow real-time monitoring during its meeting on January 15.
Until the money is reimbursed through a grant, Mrs Llodra warned on Thursday, the Board of Selectmen’s Contingency Account is nearly wiped out.
“It’s really important that we do this,” said Mrs Llodra, after explaining that the town of Monroe is also taking the same step of purchasing the software.
As approved by the Board of Selectman during a February 4 meeting, the proposed 2013-14 municipal budget totals $38,515,199, representing a 1.9 percent increase.
As explained at the Board of Finance’s previous meeting on Tuesday, February 26, anticipated recommendations from a Security Committee, established to address immediate and long-term goals associated with school building safety, could impact both the municipal budget and school budget with currently unknown costs.
When asked on Thursday if her board’s budget represents a “same services budget,” Mrs Llodra said, “Yes,” after some adjustments. Those adjustments include some investments in capital spending; however, Mrs Llodra also said there are no staffing changes planned for next year.
Newtown Community Development Director Liz Stocker and Public Works Department Director Fred Hurley spoke during the meeting. Ms Stocker updated the finance board on current and expected grants, and Mr Hurley answered questions regarding his department.
“For the last four or five years we have really been holding the line on capital equipment, in terms of purchasing new equipment, new trucks,” said Mr Hurley, after being asked to explain why the Capital Account in his section of the municipal budget had a larger increase than other areas. “The repair, of course, has been assaulted as a result of that, and has steadily inclined year after year.”
Mr Hurley said his department has come to the end of being able to employ strategies in order to “hold the line.”
The basic strategy has worked, he said, but repair costs have risen dramatically.
“When that starts going up you know it’s only a matter of time before you cannot continue to fix that,” said Mr Hurley. “So you have to replace them.”
While the request for new trucks is not in this year’s budget, Mr Hurley said the plan is mapped out to ask for those in next year’s budget.
The Capital Account spending, he said, will also need to be bumped up to work on town roads.
Mr Hurley said his department plans to start removing broken road curbs by the spring, and will be as aggressive as possible with replacing them.
The Board of Finance is scheduled to vote on both the school and municipal budget by its March 11 meeting, and both budgets will then go before the Legislative Council.
The finance board’s next scheduled meeting is set for Wednesday, March 6.