Referencing the town’s A+ credit rating and “steady” finances, Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr., proposed a $2.52 million Capital Improvement Plan for the 2017-’18 fiscal year—the largest proposal in recent years.
According to a press release, the plan includes allocations for road paving ($500,000), new police vehicles ($150,000), new and upgraded public works equipment ($201,000), and a new fire truck ($625,000). It also includes allocations for smaller programs such as $25,000 for maintenance of the Farm River, $25,000 for playground improvements at Tuttle School, and $50,000 for town-wide sidewalk repairs.
“The proposed improvements will help expand the services we provide our residents, improve our efficiency performing the work we already do, and will directly improve residents’ quality of life,” said Maturo via press release.
Finance Director Paul Rizza said the new proposed plan is possible because the town received a higher bond rating, allowing it to pay less interest and borrow more money. The town’s debt service payments are also decreasing; according to Rizza, the payments were around $7 million six years ago, and now payments stand at around $3 million.
“We’re doing things that we had put off in capital over the last couple of years,” Rizza said.
This includes expanding the usual annual paving operations and purchasing a new fire truck. While the Fire Department’s original request was for a $1 million vehicle, the town and department have agreed to a smaller truck.
“We’re looking to get a little more—more vehicles and more projects done at a little lesser cost,” said Rizza, “So, we’re trying to expand the uses of our money.”
Maturo, who is seeking re-election in November, said in the press release that capital programs in previous years were more conservative, as the priority was to balance budgets and rebuild the “rainy day” fund, which now sits at $4.9 million.
“Now that we have achieved the minimum level recommended for our rainy day fund by rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s, we can afford to roll-out more extensive programs like the one I am proposing,” said Maturo.
Rizza agreed, saying that some projects were deferred so the town could lower its debt and rebuild the fund balance. He now hopes the town will reach the point where the fund balance is high enough at the end of a year to pay cash for budget items, rather than borrow money at the start of a new fiscal year.
“That’s where you want to be,” Rizza said.
Salvatore Maltese, Maturo’s opponent in the upcoming election and former Board of Finance member, said he agreed with the purchase of the firetruck and the playground improvements, however he disagreed with using part of the bond package for the new police vehicles.
“You bond for that whole package…you’re going to get a good rate, but you’re bonding for a car that’s going to have 100,000 miles in three years,” said Maltese, adding that it’s not worth paying interest on the vehicles.
Maltese said that with the general fund now at about $5 million, he would have taken $150,000 from that fund to purchase the cars, and put more money in the bond package toward public works and infrastructure, saying those two areas have to “rise up.”
At the Sept. 5 meeting, the Town Council passed a resolution setting a public hearing to discuss the capital proposal at its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the East Haven Senior Center.