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Budget Requires Tax Increase, Says Finance Board Chairman

Avon registered voters and taxpayers gave their feedback on the $79.1 million proposed 2012-13 gross budget at a Board of Finance public hearing on Monday.

If the proposed 2012-13 gross budget passes at the May referendum as is, that will mean a 3.55 percent tax rate increase, according to Board of Finance Chairman Thomas Harrison.

To some who spoke at the Board of Finance's public hearing on the budget Monday night, any tax increase at all seemed to be too much.

"Taxes are just going up, up, up, but the ecomony is going down, down, down," Avon resident George Royce said, addressing a crowd of about 80 at the .

But others weren't bothered by tax increases.

"I think the budget is very fair how it is and I'd be happy to support it how it is," Avon resident Robin Schwartz said.

A 3.55 tax rate increase would raise the mill rate from 25.04 to 25.93, Harrison said. That means that a household with a median assessed property value of $267,180 (70 percent of fair market value) would go from paying $6,690 in property taxes to $6,928 next year – a $238 increase. Anyone taxed on $205,510 in assessed property – the 25th percentile – would pay $184 more. A taxpayer with an assessed property value of $374,660 total – the 75th percentile – would pay $397 more.

Avon senior Claire Henderson said that she prides herself on paying her monthly and annual bills on time. But after 33 years living in town, she said "the tipping point has been reached" and paying the bills is growing more difficult.

"As a retiree, I live off my income," Henderson said. "Another entity is now invading my principal. Property taxes.... Something is wrong with this picture. If I can substitute, cut and eliminate, so can Avon."

Some, like Avon resident Joseph Bartosiewicz, chalked increased spending up to high teacher salaries. Longtime Avon resident Stephen Hunt suggested a two-year wage freeze once all promised annual raises are honored.

"I'm a little saddened to hear blame put on teachers and put on things that we don't have as much control over as we think," Paula Schwartz, former Avon interim assistant superintendent and a town resident, said. "I'd hate to think that this community believes it can't support its schools to the level that it has."

She noted mandates school boards face for things like special education that "cost a lot of money."

Avon senior Dale Tepley spoke of the constant tug-of-war between younger parents wanting more funding for the schools and older residents struggling to afford staying in town. He suggested a property tax cap for the elderly and also said he'd like to see more money spent on repairing town roads.

Avon resident Mitchell Piper pointed out that parents also pay program fees, such as Pay to Play for sports, which he said is like being taxed more for the schools.

"We need to as a community stop choosing between the people that live in the town and the students," Piper said.

Avon resident Linda Merlin's youngest child will be graduating from this year, but she said she still will consider it her responsibility to support the education system because it is the future.

All in all, Harrison said that the public's response to the proposed budget doesn't seem to be as controversial as in past years.

Harrison said that this year marked the first time since he was elected to the Board of Finance that "we received no emails, text messages, calls or snail mail" about the budget before the public hearing.

The finance board will meet again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the senior center for its annual budget workshop to potentially set the budget that will go to referendum.

Town Manager Brandon Robertson will also present information on any additional non-property tax revenue he expects to come in.

Editor's Note: If there's something in this article that you think should be corrected or if you have questions or a news tip give Avon Patch Editor Jessie Sawyer a ring at 860-356-6339 or shoot her an e-mail at Jessie.Sawyer@patch.com. Join in on the Avon Patch conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AvonPatch) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/AvonPatch). You can also add your own announcements and events or apply to blog on Patch.

Marianne Gerali April 11, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Don't the children benefit from having good teachers?
Ben April 11, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Ms. Carney--- I don't know how accurate your number of 200 teachers making over 100k is... but that's besides the point. (Does your 245 include admin, teachers, sped faculty, support staff???) How does it make sense that the salaries for teachers don't go towards the students? If we had no teachers...there would be no schools... The teachers (and their salaries) DIRECTLY affect the students and how they learn. Yes, teacher salaries may be high, but with lower salaries Avon won't be able to attract excellent new teachers as well as keep the great teachers we have. The BOE has become much more fair and transparent over the last few years, and it is unfair for you to claim the BOE is, in effect, lying to the public.
Sarah Calatayud April 12, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Ms. Carney, ALL of the budget is for the children. That 80% of the pay for the teachers, administration and staff is for the children, because the teachers teach the children. This is a service-based budget. The buildings and technology and buses and classroom desks, pens and pencils don't do the job, the teachers do. And it's not misleading, it's data. Avon teachers are providing the most important service that we will purchase - they are spending all day educating our children. Why should they not make at least $100k in salary and benefits when 96% of them have at least one masters degree? This argument you make every year just doesn't hold much water, really.
Sarah Calatayud April 12, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Right on, Ben. But there are some hard-wired increases in the budget that can not be negotiated - health care benefit increases, energy cost increases, technology outdates (and we are technologically challenged in our schools - I have a friend who is on the technology committee). So just to keep things STATUS QUO with no increased programming or staff, we must increase the budget. We have no gifted program in the elementary schools, because it was cut out years ago. We have cut out most middle level administration and have an extremely flat administrative structures. The electives offered to our high school students pale in comparison to those offered by our neighboring districts (e.g. Glastonbury, Simsbury, West Hartford). And our taxes are still the second lowest around. I know times are hard, but if the school budget is not increased to match the non-negotiable increases it contains, school programming will be eroded. I would simply strongly suggest that people educate themselves very carefully about the contents of the budget proposed and the source of the increases before they vote "no" - the kids will be affected.
Sarah Calatayud April 12, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Totally agreed, Marianne, on every point.

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