As published in the Record Journal on Sunday March 3, 2013
Once again, Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson has signaled intentions of not funding July 4th fireworks in the new municipal budget (a conclusion illuminated atop today’s page by editorial cartoonist Kevin Markowski). Town officials should rethink that decision, and work with residents and the local nonprofit Wallingford Fireworks Fund to raise money.
Known for holding the line on expenses during decades in office, Dickinson originally eliminated finances for the Independence Day festivity in 2009. National economic conditions then were even more unpredictable, so the mayor reasonably sought reductions of expenditures he believed non-essential. In recent years, local volunteers have worked assiduously to raise funds to provide community members with the summertime event. Town councilors Jason Zandri and Craig Fishbein formed the Wallingford Fireworks Fund in 2010 to help collect $30,000 to $40,000 required for the July 4th show.
Furtherance of occasion for national pride merits budgetary underpinning. Dating back to before the 70s, Wallingford crowds have consistently participated with patriotic fervor in recognition of Independence Day. Fireworks are not just a spectacle of bursting brightness in dark evenings, but celebrations of everything held dear by Americans — our country’s history of freedom and democratic ideals.
Wallingford is operating under a $145.1 million current fiscal year budget. Hence, the cost of fireworks among total municipal finances is but a momentary spark amidst a spectacular light show. Moreover, compared with 2009, when America still reeled from recessionary turbulence, the economy of 2013 has improved marginally. The town should be able to afford $30,000 to $40,000 for a tradition appreciated communitywide.
But Dickinson does act with prudence in maintaining a tight budget, even now. America has not yet achieved full economic recovery. Connecticut faces deficits which probably will mean fewer state dollars allotted for towns and cities. Sustained fiscal conservatism in light of these potential financial hazards is understandable.
Thus arises opportunity for positive partnership. Costs could be split 50-50 by the town and Wallingford Fireworks Fund. Volunteers have made gestures of goodwill in recent years by bridging the monetary gap from town-budget shortfalls to July 4th celebrations. Now it’s time to extend that bridge between municipal leaders and community. Residents should consider regularly donating to their local nonprofit in support of the Independence Day event — an investment in a local and national tradition worth fostering.
Cooperation would be a win-win for mayor and contributors both. This mutually supportive venture can achieve long-term sustainability for a show manifestly valued by a majority of citizens. Surely, Wallingford’s budget can go halfway when adding patriotic sparkle to its July 4th night sky.