Vavrek releases proposed budget tonight (is still on)

First Selectman Stephen J. Vavrek has said residents should expect their taxes to go up in July, and residents should have a better idea by how much when he releases his proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-14 in the coming days.

Vavrek will make a presentation on his budget plan Monday, Feb. 11, during a 6:30 p.m. public hearing in the Masuk High School library.

The first selectman’s initial budget presentation usually is made in the Town Hall council chambers, but the location has been moved so the hearing may be shown on the local public-access TV channel.


Board of Ed seeks 3.7% increase

The Board of Education has requested a 3.72% spending increase. The school budget makes up about two-thirds of the overall budget.

Vavrek’s goal had been to keep spending on the town side of the budget as close to 0% as possible, but it appears that may not be achievable. Any increase, he said, “will all be for security, technology and infrastructure.”

The Newtown school shooting has highlighted the need to improve security at school and town buildings, the town is implementing a new computer operating system to replace an outdated one, and buildings and trucks need to be upgraded, according to Vavrek.

“We’ve made strides, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “It’s a matter of how much people are willing to pay for.”


More for police and public works

Vavrek asked his department heads to present 0% budget requests. “Many did, and some came under that,” he said.

Still, he expects to cut “a few hundred thousand dollars” from the requests.

Spending for police, public works and information technology is expected to go up. Vavrek emphasized that people will see real progress in return for any increase in the tax rate.

He said money spent on security will go toward specific steps to make school and town buildings safer, and “not to paper clips.”

The public works department needs new trucks to plow the roads and complete other tasks. “We’ve neglected these vehicles for too long,” Vavrek said.

And technology upgrades would include bringing fiber-optic wiring to local government.


Setting priorities

In the past, Vavrek said, buildings, heavy equipment, roads and technology were not a priority. “For too many years, Monroe has not funded our true infrastructure,” he said.

He said that approach has led to leaky roofs, old machinery, outdated vehicles, a police department jammed into an inadequate headquarters, a town highway garage with dirt floors, neglected roads, and buildings that weren’t connected to natural gas lines when other nearby structures were connected.

After Vavrek releases his budget proposal, the Town Council may 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.


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