Vavrek defends spending increase, tax hike in budget

First Selectman Stephen J. Vavrek said he is receiving positive feedback on his proposed $81.74-million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

State Vavrek

First Selectman Steve Vavrek

“Everything in it is based on what people are telling me,” Vavrek said. “The budget balances everyone’s interests. Now it will be up to people to vote it up or down.”

Vavrek’s proposed budget would increase spending by almost 4% and require a tax hike of 5.43%. Taxes have gone up by much less during the past two budget cycles, when Monroe voters approved consecutive budgets in the first referendum.

Vavrek said the new items in his budget are needed, such as police officers at the three elementary schools (Masuk and Jockey Hollow already have officers), a new roof at Fawn Hollow Elementary School, technology upgrades and new HVAC at Town Hall, and continued road paving.

“I’m trying to build up trust — to show people what they are getting for their tax money,” he said.


Security, infrastructure and technology

Security, infrastructure and technology are the focus of his plan, Vavrek said. “I won’t ignore safety needs,” he said. “I won’t ignore infrastructure needs. Many are things we should have planned for in the past.”

Vavrek said the town has approved much higher budget increases after multiple referendums in the past, and received less in return.

The budget includes 6.5 new positions, including three police officers for the schools, two police dispatchers, a parks maintenance worker, and increasing a part-time human resources assistant to full-time, according to Vavrek.

He emphasized that the need for new tax revenue would go down if the town should receive outside grants for school security and approve an energy-efficiency improvement plan. “We’re working on all that,” Vavrek said.

Also, hooking up Masuk and Town Hall to natural gas would bring immediate energy savings.


School spending

The Board of Education (BOE) budget, which makes up about two-thirds of the overall budget, would go up by 3.14%, while the town side would increase by 6.4%.

Vavrek said while the BOE was able to essentially hold spending flat for the two prior years, that isn’t the case with the 2013-14 budget.

“The Board of Education helped us with two zero-percent budgets, but it couldn’t last forever,” he said.

The school budget did go up during the current year, but the extra money was found outside the town operating budget.


Going forward

The Town Council has been scrutinizing the budget in workshops for the past two weeks. It is expected to vote on the town side of the budget next week.

The Town Council had no authority over the school budget, which previously was approved by the BOE and was left unchanged by Vavrek (he shifted $300,000 in school security enhancements to the town side from the school side).

Next the Board of Finance will go over the budget, with the ability to also change the overall amount for education. Voters will go to the polls in the annual budget referendum on Tuesday, April 2.

Both the Town Council and Board of Finance are likely to reduce the budget.

The new budget will take effect this July 1. The current budget that went into effect last July had a 2.1% spending increase and a 1.6% tax increase.


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