To the Editor,
Only 9.97 percent of registered Avon voters participated in the town budget referendum on Wednesday, and Board of Finance Chair, Tom Harrison, responded by ."
Really? When only 789 out of 11,000 registered voters favor anything, it can hardly be considered ‘overwhelming support’ and the Board of Finance should hardly be claiming success.
Superintendent Gary Mala proposed a lean, no-frills school budget (comprising 80 percent of the town budget) that balanced basic student needs, contractual obligations, and funding realities. It was built through a thoroughly transparent process and shared openly with town boards and the public. It featured creative financing strategies and increased efficiencies to lower costs, and the proposed increase was in line with a conservative state average. Likewise, Town Council Chair Mark Zacchio presented an equally well-constructed, conservative budget for municipal services.
Yet, in just one brief meeting with scant deliberation, our Board of Finance (excepting Tom Gugliotti and Brian Stoll) put forth a budget that ignores the basic needs and fixed expenses identified by the experts - at a point when investment in school curriculum and technology, as well as municipal infrastructure (like fire equipment and road repairs), is desperately needed.
Unfortunately, Avon’s Board of Finance aligned themselves with the nay-sayers, many of whom spoke at the April 9 budget hearing to express their disdain for school spending:
- One woman accused the town of redistributing wealth into the pockets of families with school children who “float above the fray.” “Where's the shared sacrifice?” she asked. (Shouldn’t the parents who pay thousands of dollars in compulsory fees for public education, be the ones asking this question?)
- One man objected to teachers who, at the height of their careers, “can make as much as lawyers or other professionals.” Should our teachers, 90 percent or more of whom have advanced degrees, not?
- Another man suggested that Avon parents expect “gold-plated door handles” in their kids' schools, while a woman declared that she’s tired of paying for Avon’s children and getting “nothing for (her) tax dollars.”
Fortunately, resident Linda Merlin eloquently answered them. With her son graduating from Avon High School this year, Linda will join the ranks of taxpayers who ‘get nothing for their tax dollars.' Only, she doesn't see it that way. “I get a lot out of educating Avon's children, whether they are mine or others',” she said.
How true. We all benefit from the taxpayer-subsidized public education we receive as children, and we all benefit when today’s children become a well-educated work force - and, ultimately, new taxpayers. We participate in the tax system for life. Young families benefit from senior tax dollars invested in public schooling, while seniors benefit from younger adults’ investment in Social Security and taxes on their, typically, larger properties. At some points, we get more out of the system than we contribute, and at others, we contribute more than we take out.
In the end, we all benefit from supporting each other along the continuum, in the true spirit of community.
No, Tom Harrison. Avon voters do not ‘overwhelmingly support’ the 2012-13 budget. Most of them were so outraged by the budget the Board of Finance put forth (and the flippant process by which it was achieved) that they didn’t even bother to vote. Perhaps they are saving their votes for the November 2013 elections when they can make a meaningful difference.
-The CC4A leadership team
Abha Bernard, Scott Bernard, Susan Rietano Davey, David Magrini, Robin Blauers Piper, Mitchell Piper, Julie Tacinelli and Barbara Zuras