Crowd protests economic development cuts in Granby’s budget
November 12, 2008
Granby residents and members of the Granby Chamber of Commerce filled every seat in town hall Tuesday night to weigh in on Granby’s proposed economic development budget cuts.
Past board member and businessman Mark Bujanovich questioned the town’s rationale for drastically reducing a department that stimulates economic progress in town.
Bujanovich pointed out that the economic development department, headed by Betsy Cook, whose position is threatened by a bold-stroke budget move, reflects the smallest share in expenses in all categories of the general fund.
He then pointed out to board members that sales tax is expected to supply 51 percent of town revenue.
“Who impacts sales tax revenues more than the chamber and economic development departments?” Bujanovich asked. “This is not the time to cut back on something as important as economic development.”
Bujanovich insisted funds needed to fully support the department are buried in budget line items better suited for sacrifice.
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“I have gone through and found all the money needed to fund the program fully,” he said. Trustees asked to examine Bujanovich’s suggestions.
The preliminary budget reflects an $84,388 savings by eliminating Cook’s position. Broken down, it equates to more than $51,000 in salary, about $21,000 in benefits and $12,100 in related expenses tailored to the position.
The budget committee, comprised of two staff members and Town Manager Wally Baird, has worked since August to balance the budget, Baird said.
Baird said cutting personnel was their last resort, behind capital, materials and supplies and enhanced revenue.
Granby Mayor Jynnifer Pierro reminded townspeople that the board just received the draft budget four days prior. She also emphasized the town’s fiscal position going into
“I think our budget predictions for income, even at $350,000 for use tax, could be pushing it.. Last year, we were at $800,000,” Pierro said. “This is pretty drastic.”
Those who shared reasons why Cook’s position should be saved did not deny the town’s economic challenges, but speakers such as Jena Taylor, a Granby
businesswoman, suggested the town reevaluate dismantling what she sees as a successful program.
Having the town and chamber take over Cook’s responsibilities is “shortsighted,” she said, and could detract from the success of the department.
Volunteers are already giving maximum levels to the department’s programs, Taylor continued, and town staff workers are already adopting more work to their full-time positions.
“I don’t think this is a feasible solution,” she said.
Businesswoman Jill Miles beseeched the town to “keep in mind the larger picture” when considering economic development. New flowers and planters are nice, she said, but recruiting new businesses to create more sales tax revenue is at the core of future downtown vitality.
“I’m glad you’re hear. It shows that you care,” Trustee Ken Coatney said to the public after speakers were finished. “We appreciate everyone’s input; it’s very, very welcome.”
With that, board members scheduled the first budget workshop, open to the public, for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, at town hall.
Those who requested copies will be forwarded drafts of the budget.
“It was not easy to be in a position to make that choice,” Wally Baird said in reference to the budget line item that cut Cook’s position. “Even making a recommendation to the board, it’s not easy.”
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