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Mayor releases 2014 budget proposal

Date: 5/17/2013

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Gregory Neffinger has proposed an $82.90 million fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget. Notable expenditures include the addition of an Animal Control Officer (ACO), the increased cost associated with an election year and the upgrading of the town's computer operating systems and software.

The mayor was able to meet the additional staffing needs of the public school system with savings from other line items. Neffinger also cited the use of interns, both paid and unpaid as another tool to meet the town's budget needs.

Since the proposed FY14 budget was released at the beginning of May, one change has been made. Initially, Town Council Clerk Sue Pettazzoni was scheduled to work half of her hours for the council and the remaining hours as an office assistant for the Town Clerk.

"Some Town Councilors came to me. In the spirit of good will, I took their word for it that the clerk position needed to be full time and I changed it," Neffinger said.

The budget for the Animal Control Department for fiscal year 2013 (FY13) was part of the Health Department's budget. For FY14, the budget falls under the Town Clerk's office. The proposed budget for the newly added ACO is $36,169.84.

The mayor cited the needs of an election year and the anticipated special referendum vote on the proposed Hard Rock New England Hotel and Casino as the reasons for his proposal of $21,512 for printing and form costs, compared to the FY13 budget of $7,505. Also related to the elections is the increased cost in supplies that is proposed as $2,300 for FY14, in comparison to $765 for FY13.

In his budget proposal, Neffinger discussed the objectives for the Information and Technology Systems Department.

He said, "The Information and Technology Systems Division is continually working to upgrade the town's computer equipment and network systems. It is the policy of the division's administrator to maximize value and increase capability while controlling expenditures as they relate to the town's computer systems. The department will continue to focus its efforts on alternative solutions and cost-saving measures toward the maintenance and support the town's computer equipment and network systems in the most cost-effective and efficient manner."

Some of the proposed costs associated with the objective include $71,150 for computer equipment, $5,000 for an intern and $62,000 for software.

A change to the Planning and Development Division budget is the fact that the Weights and Measure position is now a contracted service; a full-time employee is no longer part of the staff.

The $595,875.94 proposed budget for the department includes $32,475 for contract services, which received a $200 appropriation in FY13; an intern line item for $9,850; $65,000 for an Economic Development administrator; and increased costs for "schooling and workshops."

The Health Department budget includes a line item of $5,500 for the disposal of medical supplies and sharps, a recently added program.

Capital requests for FY14 include the use of free cash for the purchase of a new prisoner van for the Police Department, $85,803; for sidewalk maintenance, $300,000; for dike maintenance $222,500; to complete the second phase of the UNICO building rehabilitation, $651,632; the improvement of soccer/lacrosse fields at Tatham Elementary School; $122,715; and the purchase of an all-season dump sander with a plow for the Department of Public Works; $142,000.