By Josh LaBella
Last week Mayor Rossi’s $163.3 million budget for FY19-20 brought out many comments during the required public hearing conducted by the City Council, and most of them centered around cuts in the city’s library system.
Many citizens voiced their concern and frustration over cuts to the library, and made sure they were heard. Employees of the library, meanwhile, say this is part of a continued pattern of cuts to their department.
Rossi said her budget looked to build on the success the city has achieved over the past 16 months. She referenced the $3.1 million operating surplus in 2018 and said officials project another surplus in 2019.
“It has not been an easy road but together we have changed the direction of our city,” said Rossi.
In Rossi’s readings of the highlights of the budget she said it did not raise taxes for the city or the City of West Haven Allingtown Fire Department. She called the budget “conservative” and said there were other efficiencies that her administration was looking at creating next year. One specific area is switching the municipal health care plan.
“I have eliminated all open positions in the budget, except for public safety positions in the police and fire departments to provide additional savings,” said Rossi. “The elimination of open positions has been and continues to be an action consistent throughout the budget during my term.”
The mayor also took time to address concerns about cuts to the library, saying she had been hearing a lot about it.
“This was brought about during the budget process,” said Rossi. “It was a request from City Council members as we we’re negotiating both the budget and the five-year plan.”
Rossi said she believes in the library and has spoken to the city grant writer to see if they can find any sort of assistance for its operating budget.
During the time for public comment, a significant amount of the people who spoke came to speak in regards to their support for the library and desire to see it funded. Colleen Bailey, director of the library, said they cannot continue to absorb the cuts that they have seen for the past five years.
“When looking at the proposed budget from last year alone we have been cut by $100,000,” said Bailey. “When taking into account higher costs, this costs equates to even higher numbers. We changed our health insurance three years ago to absorb cuts, some staff positions have not been replaced and hours are at the very minimum.”
Bailey went on to speak about the importance of libraries in communities and the roles they serve.
Ben Martin, a city resident, said it was his first time going to any sort of public meeting and he did so to voice his “full-throated support” for the library.
“I know that we have a budgetary crisis,” said Martin. “I voted for Mayor Rossi because I believed that she would be able to pull us through [it]. I’m proud to see that there’s movement there.”
Martin said he did not want that movement to come at the expense of the library. He said it is a small amount of money to invest in the future.