Naugatuck budget to yield half-mill hike

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials have approved a 2010-11 budget representing a $758,340, or .74 percent, overall increase, which hinges upon a 1.6 percent, half-mill tax hike for property owners. The tax rate, which is 31.52 mills in the current fiscal year, will increase to 32.02 mills in 2010-11.

Taxpayers have until May 27 at 4 p.m. to petition for a referendum.

The joint boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance made two final additions to the budget before approving it last Thursday: capital investments into a traffic signal and an updated Web site, which are slated to come it at a combined cost of $45,000.

That sum will come at no additional cost to taxpayers, as one-time capital projects are funded by one-time revenues drawn from the borough’s fund balance, not from operating revenues, like property taxes.

The traffic light, which is planned for the intersection of Maple Street and Old Firehouse Road, near Town Hall, will cost the borough $25,000 and be contingent upon further state grant funding. Updates to the borough’s Web site, naugatuck-ct.gov, will cost $20,000; those services will be payable to QScend Technologies, Inc., a New York Web design firm for which Sean Williams, a state representative, manages municipal accounts in the Greater Waterbury area.

Burgess Hank Kuczenski was the most vocal supporter of adding money for the traffic signal back into next year’s budget, saying the high volume of accidents at the intersection is enough evidence that a signal is needed.

“I sat around there a couple different times and observed the traffic flow, pedestrians crossing, cars going in front of them or behind them at the intersection there, on the crosswalk,” he said. “I was also able to see the fire department backing into the firehouse, getting halfway into the garage with cars going around them, paying no attention to the firemen telling them to stop. … Certainly there hasn’t been a serious motor vehicle or pedestrian accident, but all we need is one, and I think we’ll be sorry we didn’t spend the $25,000.”

On the other hand, finance board member Jack Tavares said accidents there have, over time, made people more careful, though he ultimately voted in favor of funding the investment.

Diane Scinto, another finance board member, said she would not vote for the signal because she felt there are other, more dangerous intersections that need work, such as in front of the Naugatuck Ambulance Co. on Rubber Avenue.

Second Deputy Mayor Mike Ciacciarella sided with Scinto, but the measure ultimately passed. The borough will have to wait for state grant funding to make up the remainder of the cost of installing a new traffic signal.

Officials expressed support for updating the borough’s Web site, in hopes that some tasks, like licensing, permitting and the like, could be performed over the Internet and reduce foot traffic to Town Hall.

Some, like Burgess Mindy Fragoso and Mayor Bob Mezzo, said they also wanted to make the site easier to navigate, in order to facilitate a more open government.

“There’s a tremendous amount of content on our Web site, if you actually go to it,” Mezzo said. “The issue is for the person who goes to it, being able to find it.”

Fragoso added she’s “fought long and hard” to update the existing Web site, saying, “We would run more efficiently, and it saves money in the long run …. We keep taking one step forward and three back, and it doesn’t work.”

She said, specifically, she wanted to add an easy-to-access calendar outlining when and where meetings and borough-sanctioned events would be held, claiming visitors to the current Web site have to search for 45 minutes to find such information.