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Meriden City Council's Finance Committee hears department budget requests – Meriden Record-Journal

MERIDEN — The City Council’s Finance Committee fielded department budget requests through two nights of workshops this week. 

The proposed $208.4 million spending plan includes a more than $2.3 million funding request from the Department of Health & Human Services. Director Lea Crown outlined it during a presentation Tuesday night.

The request represents a $435,624 increase over the previous budget. The increase includes salary costs for department nurses that had been covered by federal American Rescue Plan Act funds the previous year, Crown said.

Finance Committee member Michael Carabetta asked with the COVID-19 pandemic slowing down, whether the department had decreased its staffing.

“Or are we still fully staffed?,” he asked. 

“Fully staffed,” Crown said in response.

“Is there enough work to go around,” Carabetta asked as a follow up. 

“My full-time staff has always done full-time work,” Crown replied. She explained staff members continue to respond to COVID-19 related complaints. Responding to such complaints is something that had been added to their existing responsibilities. 

The health director then explained the only staff added to the department are three current part-time contact tracers. The department had previously had four contact tracers. 

That additional staffing has been funded through a grant, Crown explained. 

The department did add additional full-time and part-time nurses for Edison Middle School when it reopened as a Meriden Public Schools-operated facility. 

City Manager Timothy Coon, in response to Carabetta’s inquiry, explained the city used ARPA funds to pay for previously funded positions in order to achieve a zero budget increase in the past fiscal year. 

A few finance committee members and city councilors asked about the department’s work addressing the behavioral health needs, particularly of youth, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yvette Cortez, who chairs the finance committee, started that inquiry by asking Crown, “Are we addressing any behavioral needs from the COVID perspective?”

“Not directly from the health department,” Crown said in response. “We don’t have the staff.” Crown said her department has a process to refer youth in need of services through different channels, including Meriden Public Schools and to the mental health service provider Rushford. 

In addition to Crown, the heads of the Department of Public Works & Engineering, the Meriden Public Library, Parks & Recreation, Public Utilities, Hunter’s Golf Course, Human Resources and the City Clerk’s office all went before the finance committee.  

According to the city’s budget request, more than $47.2 million would be allocated toward general government expenses. Public safety expenses comprise more than $27.3 million and debt service represents just over $14.7 million. 

The board of Education budget represents the largest line item at more than $100.8 million. 

Next week, police, fire and emergency communications officials are scheduled to present their requests. 

mgagne@record-journal.com203-317-2231Twitter:@MikeGagneRJ

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