Looking Forward: Mayor discusses upcoming year
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jan. 3, 2013
South Windsor Mayor Thomas Delnicki is forthright when it comes to what he expects in the next 12months. “It's a new year, and there's certainly going to be some new challenges before us,” said Delnicki. “The big one, of course, is the budget.”
There are numerous critical items and concerns that budget-makers will have to take into account, he said. These include an anticipated town deficit of $600,000, town healthcare, all-day kindergarten, the first sewer payment of more than $1 million, the Board of Education's budget deficit and an anticipated increase in its budget request due to new teachers' contracts and either a new natural gas generator at the high school's emergency shelter for around $200,000, or the restacking of the current fuel cell, to the tune of $400,000 to $500,000. Delnicki also raises the possibility of spending for new school security, should it be determined that the town could improve on the existing system.
In light of these critical needs, Delnicki said he believes that a proposal for the town to build a new recreation center and hockey rinks at Evergreen Walk need to be “put behind us.”
“It's well intentioned, but in tough economic times like this, you really have to stay focused on 'bread and butter issues,'” he said. When there are 50-year-old schools that need not only repairs but renovations, a recreation center is not a bread and butter issue. Delnicki considers it more like dessert.
“We have asked every town department to institute a hiring and spending freeze,” he said. While some positions already in the pipeline were funded, an overall policy of tightening belts is in effect. “If we were to become a party to this [project], to me it would be counter to what we've asked our own departments to do.”
Arguments in favor of the proposal have often pointed to historically low interest rates that the town should take advantage of. “If we are going to spend money, if we are going to bond, if we are going to do something, our elementary schools are a meat and potato issue that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Delnicki believes the proposed recreation center, which has been praised as a way to revitalize Evergreen Walk, is the “wrong project at the wrong time in the wrong location.” Should the town ever be involved in a project to build a recreation center, he believes it should be located near the community center and Nevers Road Park – not in the middle of a shopping center on the fringe of town. He is in favor of the prediction of Town Manager Matthew Galligan that the private sector will take over the project. “If that can happen privately and the town stays out of it, great. But if the town has to put in any money forward, wrong,” Delnicki said.
Delnicki also foresees 2013 as the year that the town receives an answer to a long-term question: will Connecticut Studios, LLC, build a movie studio in South Windsor? “One way or another, Connecticut Studios needs to be brought to a conclusion or brought to an end,” he said. He notes that the Town Council has afforded CT Studios two deadline extensions, and he doesn't believe the council will be inclined to provide a third.
If construction does not begin by the current deadline of April 3, and another extension is not granted, then the 40 acres transferred to CT Studios by the town will revert back to South Windsor. The town has already done extensive work preparing the land for the project, including mitigating environmental concerns and satisfying requirements at the state and local level. If reverted back to the town, the property would be a “package ready to go for something else,” said Delnicki. However, he is hoping that CT Studios and its principal, Anthony DelVicario, are able to bring the project to fruition – especially since the town is slated to gain $1 million in tax revenue annually from the studio. “But they've got to get it done, period,” Delnicki said.
While the town is not affected by recent cuts to municipal aid, Delnicki believes that the best South Windsor can hope for is the same amount of state funding going forward. “If we're fortunate, we're going to have flat revenue,” he said. Beyond this year, expectations are bleaker. “We're talking about over a billion-dollar shortfall next year. They're going to have to come up with a mitigation package, and heaven only knows what that will be,” he said.
Overall, the mayor believes that 2013 is a time for the town to batten down the hatches. “We as a community have got to have our priorities straight,” he said.