Residents can dial into Thursday’s budget hearing

MONROE, CT — Townspeople’s voices will be heard, and read, during the Board of Finance’s budget hearing to be held remotely at 7 p.m. this Thursday. First Selectman Ken Kellogg posted instructions on how to participate on the town website.

“We think we have a pretty good solution to make it easier for the moderator to create a public hearing format,” he said Tuesday. “People will indicate a desire to speak and the moderator can let them know when it’s their turn.”

To participate in the hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, call 978-990-5215 and enter access code 1161694#. To submit written comments, click on this link and fill out the form or send an email to [email protected].

After a second hearing is held on May 14, the Board of Finance will adopt a new town budget and tax rate.

Monroe will not have a budget referendum this year, because of Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders meant to provide municipalities with financial stability as Connecticut handles the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rainy day fund

The $91.5 million town budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21 carries a projected 2.6 percent tax increase with $59.5 million for education and $31.9 million for town services. However, Kellogg has since asked the Board of Finance to approve a budget with no tax increase, because many residents are struggling financially.

Board of Finance members were receptive to that request during their meeting on April 16.

“Obviously, it’s a big change in direction from months ago,” Chairman Michael Manjos said. “I thought this would be relatively easy, but it’s a challenge.”

Town officials anticipate a lower tax collection rate and lost revenue on services such as Parks and Recreation programs and the issuing of building permits, so Manjos proposed using all but $2 million from the undesignated fund balance to help make up the difference and to avoid raising taxes.

“I always thought of the fund balance as a rainy day fund,” he said, “and right now it’s pouring outside. I think we’ll agree this is our 100-year-storm.”

Manjos also suggested holding off on capital projects and asking unions for teachers, police officers and town employees to forgo raises this coming fiscal year.

The Board of Finance also anticipates less financial aid from the state. Members will review financial models as they try to wrap their arms around what revenue to expect.

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