Avon taxpayers will be asked to vote on a $78,729,793 proposed 2012-13 budget in May after the Board of Finance approved the budget by a 5-2 endorsement Wednesday night at the .
If approved, that will mean a 2.45 percent tax rate increase, a drop from the 3.55 percent proposed increase.
The $78.7 million figure represents a $444,580 reduction from the recommended $79.1 million combined budget. That includes the town and school board operating budgets, debt services, sewers and capital improvement program funds. It also factors in $288,100 in additional non-property tax revenues announced Wednesday – $158,000 on the town side and $130,000 for the Board of Education.
BOARD OF FINANCE DELIBERATION
The five Republican finance board members – Margaret H. Bratton, Catherine M. Durdan, Dean C. Hamilton, Chairman Thomas F. Harrison and James E. Speich – supported a $78.7 million budget and 2.45 percent tax rate increase.
Harrison said they took into consideration concerns voiced at the Monday about tax increases in a tough economy and the fact that the voters – including the Avon Taxpayers Association, the Avon Education Foundation and CC4A – approved a 2.45 percent tax increase last May.
"None of the five of us felt in conscience we could recommend a higher tax percentage increase," Harrison said.
Harrison said that he's not aware of a time when Avon had no tax increase.
In response to citizens' requests at the public hearing for alternative funding means other than tax increases, Harrison said that hopes to explore longterm budget planning options in the future.
Democrats Thomas A. Gugliotti and Brian M. Stoll voted against the motion for a $78.7 million budget, supporting 2.9 and 3.12 tax rate increases, respectively.
Stoll was the only one who asked to keep the recommended budget essentially as is, adjusted to include the additional revenue identified.
"I think everybody had their say. The process worked the way it's supposed to work. I'm disappointed for both the Board of Ed and the Town Council because I think they put together responsible budgets that I support," Stoll said. "But these are tough economic times. We all understand that and every dollar does matter to people."
Yet, he said that he believes the budget will pass and that he hopes people support it "regardless of politics or which sector of the town you're in."
"I sure hope we don't come back for a second vote on it because we cut some things that are going to hurt with this budget and cutting more would hurt more," Stoll said.
Stoll said that he'd like to see more dialogue between the three boards in the future about the "issues as opposed to just the dollar amounts."
REDUCTIONS FROM PROPOSED BUDGET
Board of Education
The school board faces $266,748 in reductions from its . Back in December 2011, the Board of Education unanimously endorsed Superintendent Gary Mala's proposed budget as he presented it.
"I believe and I stand by this budget as it was presented to the board and as they approved it, and the methodology behind it accurately represents what we need to provide the service to the children of Avon next year," Mala said after the meeting.
The Board of Education is waiting until the 2012-13 budget passes before officially determining how to make the adjustments.
"We're going to think out a very comprehensive way where to make the reductions. It's that simple," Mala said. "What choice do we have? That's the number we've been given."
It is not clear at this time whether staff cuts will be necessary.
"I'm going to do everything I can to preserve the services and staffing that we have for our children," Mala said. "That's what people demand and expect from us."
The school board does not have a "cut list" at this time, according to Board of Education Chairperson Peggy Roell.
"It's the number that they believe is reasonable," Roell said. "We have no choice. We'll have the administration look at alternatives and present us different alternatives.... It's always a challenge, but we'll work on it."
Town of Avon
The town is making adjustments to accomodate a $177,832 cut from its requested . That represents a 60-40 percent division in the reductions between the school district and town, respectively.
"Well, the Board of Finance has a role," Town Council Chairman Mark Zacchio said. "And they go through their deliberations to decide how they want to handle it year to year. Clearly you could have heard from the two boards that our budgets are tight and they're tighter than normal because we both came in with a very low operating budget, but the Board of Finance did what they think is the right thing to do for the tax increase and we abide by it."
Based on deliberation between the Town Council and town staff after the meeting adjourned, the town plans on lowering the capital improvement program budget by $120,000.
That incorporates a $50,000 decrease in funding for the second of three truck installment payments (from $250,000 to $200,000), $20,000 less in Building 1 renovations (from $50,000 to $30,000) and $50,000 reduction in a recommended capital improvement program buffer for future years (from $100,000 to $50,000, split 50-50 between facilities and equipment).
IMPORTANT BUDGET DATES
The budget referendum is scheduled for May 16 and the boards will present information about the budget at its annual town meeting on May 7. Both will take place at the Avon Senior Center.
The budget would automatically pass .
If the referendum fails the first time around, there will be a . on June 6. This year marks a decade since the first time an Avon budget failed in the first referendum, Harrison said.
Should it fail a second time, there will be a third referendum on June 27. In the event of a third rejection, the Town Council would set the budget.
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.