BUDGET WATCH: Norwalk City Council approves short-term spending resolution to avoid citywide shutdown

Vice Mayor Leonard Shryock and Councilwoman Margarita Rios clashed over the drawn-out budget talks. Photo | City of Norwalk

Vice Mayor Leonard Shryock and Councilwoman Margarita Rios clashed over the drawn-out budget talks. Photo | City of Norwalk

NORWALK – Norwalk City Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday authorizing the continuance of the fiscal year 2016/2017 budget while council still struggles to come to an agreement on the fiscal year 2017/2018 budget.

The continuance gives staff the authority to continue operations as previously constituted until Council adopts the final budget, said City Manager Mike Egan.

Monday’s special meeting may have been the briefest in terms of Norwalk’s somewhat long and tedious budget meeting process this year, with the typical June 30 benchmark for city budget approval having past.

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The negotiations of potential salary increases and a future solid waste contract was the hot topic of the afternoon.

More than anyone else, Vice Mayor Leonard Shryock and Councilmember Margarita Rios seemed to butt heads, with neither seemingly willing to budge on their stances concerning the impact that future negotiations would have on the 2017-18 budget.

Rios said she felt the Council was “putting the cart before the horse.” She spoke openly after the meeting’s conclusion.

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“I don’t know if we can necessarily make any decisions as to our negotiation piece because we don’t know which numbers we’re working with at this point,” said Rios. 

“My experience has been that when you’re working on a budget, you want to finalize your budget, you want to know exactly what numbers you’re working with and how you’re going to allocate those dollars of that funding before deciding on a negotiation piece.

“Usually with a negotiation piece, there’s a request for increase in salary as well as an increase in health and welfare benefits,” she said.
Shryock quickly countered those statements, however.

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“Potential salary enhancements are a part of the budget as well,” said Shryock. “If we approve the budget without knowing what we put to the side for those understanding it’s a negotiation, we won’t have anything for the workers. That’s an additional cost that I don’t think we were ready [for].

“Given that we hadn’t done the potential add-ins back to the general fund, I don’t think we were ready to finalize the budget,” Shryock said.

Councilmember Jennifer Perez also had a strong voice in the meeting, showing concern for the budget talks which have drawn on.

“[It’s] frustrating, yes, but we owe it to our residents,” said Perez. “We’ve had how many meetings to review the budget? It’s our due diligence to respond and adopt the budget in a timely fashion…we need to do our due diligence for our residents, for our team, for our staff, for our vendors and contractors that we work with on a regular basis.”

However, Perez sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I do see that there’s a closing in,” said Perez. “We all just want what’s best for the city, for the residents.”

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