WALLINGFORD — The Town Council made changes Thursday night to the mayor’s 2021-22 budget proposal, including funding pickleball court striping, partially offsetting a tax increase and creating a fund for Community Pool renovations.
The council is scheduled to adopt a budget at next week’s meeting. If the council fails to adopt a budget, the mayor's original budget proposal would be adopted.
At Thursday’s meeting, Councilor Jason Zandri proposed adding $60,000 to the Parks and Recreation department’s budget for pickleball courts at Harrison Park, to be paid for out of the town Electric Division’s PILOT payment.
The project would seal and repair the existing tennis courts and repaint them with lines for tennis and pickleball, creating dual use courts. The council voted unanimously on the budget amendment.
Councilor Christina Tatta proposed reducing the proposed mill rate by 0.3 mills by appropriating an additional $1.5 million from the reserves in the general fund balance, which would be added to the mayor's proposed dip into reserves of $6.4 million.
Along with the revaluation that raised property values and therefore property taxes, there’s a rare, non-recurring expense of approximately $1.5 million dollars for a 53rd pay week that increases salaries and wages in most departments, Tatta said.
Councilors Tom Laffin and Chris Shortell asked how a lower amount in the unassigned fund balance, currently $16 million, would affect the town’s credit rating and ability to get a low interest rate on bonds.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said it would be an increase in the town’s dependence on one-time revenue.
“It's not free money,” he said. “It’s a reassurance to everyone that should we have a real emergency, we have the capacity to deal with it.”
After a long discussion, the council voted 6-1 to make the amendment. Chairman Vincent Cervoni voted against the amendment. Laffin and Councilor Craig Fishbein were absent for the vote.
Councilor Vincent Testa proposed creating a fund account of $1 million to act as a down payment on Community Pool renovations and transfer the money from the Electric Division’s PILOT payment.
Tatta objected, saying that she’s not sure if the proposal would accomplish its intent to push along the pool project.
The council voted 5-2 to make the amendment, with Tatta and Cervoni opposed.