The Republican members of the Town Council were critical of the several new town job positions Mayor Scott Jackson proposed when he unveiled his 2014-15 budget to the Legislative Council Tuesday.
The$207 million proposed budget, which carries a 1.25 mill increase, would add several new positions, including a Traffic Calming Specialist, a Program Specialist for Public Information and a new technology department headed by a Chief Information Officer.
Jackson said the introduction of the new trash and recycling bins is proof that the Public Information Specialist is needed. Many residents were taken by surprise, he said, and the implementation of the program was difficult because of it.
“The roll-out should have been smoother because we relied on other sources to carry the message. Circumstances require us to engage in this government enterprise in a different way, and part of what we need to do is change the way we think about messaging,” he said. “This is valuable information, and it is not getting into the households in any organized way. So the budget before you establishes a Program Specialist for public information, whose sole duty is to provide citizens with the timely information that they need.”
“We are going to closely examine these new jobs during the budget process. Should the taxpayers really be asked to pay for a press secretary?” said Marjorie Bonadies (R-9). “We see no need to grow the town government, when we can’t afford the town government we already have.”
The information specialist job is needed to allow the town to keep up with the latest technology, Jackson said.
“With the ascendance of digital delivery of information, we need to coordinate and enhance both our technical efforts and our citizen outreach,” he told the council. “If in 2014, an app is the best way to push out critical information to residents, then we need to be developing it. The time for these changes is now.”
The traffic calming position also is very much needed, he said. Traffic calming has been identified as one of the top priorities to residents.
“While we have been rolling out traffic calming measures for years, we need to make this someone’s everyday job, not an occasional duty,” Jackson said.
“I’m not happy with all these new jobs.” said Betty Wetmore (R-At Large).
“Any new positions will be carefully evaluated to determine if they are truly needed,” said Austin T. Cesare (R-At Large), the Council’s minority leader. “I appreciate the Mayor’s effort to hold the line on spending. However, I am looking forward to carefully scrutinizing this budget for further areas of savings to avoid yet another tax increase on Hamden residents.”