As published in the Record Journal on Thursday February 28, 2013
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD - Citing another difficult budget year and financial uncertainty, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. has opted not to include funding for the town’s annual July fireworks display in his proposed budget.
The town stopped including the fireworks show in the general government budget in 2009.
“The reason is because we have had very difficult budgets,” said Dickinson. With expenses increasing, he said he’d find it hard to explain “why we aren’t cutting things that are non-essential.”
“I have a hard time seeing fireworks as an essential,” he said.
Town Councilor Jason Zandri and a small group of supporters have kept the show alive since 2009 by raising funds on their own. While the general government budget has not been released,Dickinson informed Zandri during a phone call on Monday that the fireworks display would not be funded, Zandri said.
The show dates back to before the 1970s, Zandri said, and has become a tradition in town.
“Tradition gets lost over time,” Zandri said. “As soon as you stop a tradition, you lose it forever.”
Zandri, a Democrat, is challenging the longtime Republican mayor in this November’s election.
While Dickinson argues that budget issues are to blame for the lack of funding, Zandri says there is money available. He said the town is running a $1.7 million surplus and can afford the $26,656 needed for the fireworks.
Dickinson said that expenses need to be reduced and there are too many unknowns going into the spring, when the town’s budget will be put together. “I can’t be sure what’s going to happen this year,” he said. The town has reduced staff, so there is no justification in funding a non-essential event, Dickinson said.
Zandri said the mayor has also chosen not to fund municipal services for the event, which would include police, fire and public works overtime. The cost would be approximately $13,000, Zandri said.
Taking just 1 percent interest from the town’s $1.7 million surplus would generate $17,000, Zandri said, enough to fund municipal services for the event and more.
“The bottom line is the mayor simply doesn’t want this,” Zandri said.
Zandri has set a minimum fundraising goal of $30,000. The deadline to get that private funding to the town is May 31, he said, to allow time for scheduling and booking.
If funding is secured in time, the fireworks show will be held on July 6. Zandri said there is no rain date.
“You can’t justify a reason for not having this event,” Zandri said.