First Selectman Stephen J. Vavrek has proposed an $81.74 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, representing a spending increase of 3.98% over the current year.
The budget would require a 5.43% tax increase, although Vavrek said that figure is likely to change as additional work is done on the budget and outside funding sources for some programs possibly are secured.
“This is a very liquid kind of budget, where things come in and out,” he emphasized during a presentation in the Masuk High School library attended by about 50 people.
Spending on the town side of the budget would go up 6.4% to $20.37 million, while the education budget would increase 3.14% to $53.05 million.
Vavrek has left the Board of Education-adopted budget unchanged except for shifting $300,000 for school security improvements from the education side to the town side because he believes security is more of a town issue than just an education one.
The school budget would go up 3.72% if the $300,000 for security enhancements was kept on the Board of Education side.
Major expenses in the proposal
The budget would include paying for police officers to be stationed at the town’s elementary schools (Masuk High School and Jockey Hollow Middle School already have school resource officers); $2.2 million in bonding to fix the Fawn Hollow Elementary School roof; purchasing two new public works trucks; a new HVAC system for Town Hall; and ongoing improvements to roads.
“We do have to continue to re-invest in Monroe or we’ll be kicking the can down the road,” Vavrek said.
He stressed his budget priorities are to upgrade security, infrastructure and technology. Most of the new spending on the town side involves the police and public works departments.
Building a foundation for the future
Vavrek said while many people would like to see a 0% budget increase, especially during the challenging economic times, Monroe must look to the future. “We cannot build a foundation on a crumbling infrastructure,” he said.
People can expect to see more services and improved government buildings in return for an increase in taxes, according to Vavrek. “People tell me they don’t get enough services for their tax dollars,” he said.
Police in schools are a needed expense
The $320,000 cost of new police officers in the schools is a needed expense, Vavrek said. “Some people think we may be overreacting but tell that to a kid who has to go to school every day,” he said.
He is hoping Monroe might be reimbursed for the expense from the federal government, partly due to Sandy Hook Elementary School having moved to a Monroe facility after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown. Sandy Hook Elementary now operates in the Chalk Hill building, which is part of a three-school campus in Monroe.
Vavrek said he hopes residents will support his proposed budget, realizing it makes more sense for the town to make reasonable investments in infrastructure now rather than putting things off and having to pay higher costs down the line. Monroe can’t keep putting things off, he stressed.
The budget process
Now that Vavrek has released his budget proposal, the Town Council will hold a series of budget workshops and can alter the town side of the budget only. Then the Board of Finance finalizes the budget, with the power to also alter the overall amount for education. Voters will go to the polls in the annual budget referendum on Tuesday, April 2.
The tax rate will be based on the new budget that is approved; the various outside funding sources, such as state aid; and the new Grand List (the tax base), which is the value of all taxable real estate, motor vehicles and business property in town.
The Board of Education approved its budget request in early January. School Supt. James Agostine discussed the school budget at Monday night’s meeting as well.
The 2013-14 budget will take effect this July 1.