To the Editor:
Last year the Board of Finance was put in the very difficult position of having to approve a budget without voter approval. It was extremely difficult for myself and the board as we are all advocates of the budget referendum and I am happy to be able to send this year’s budget to the First Selectman and for approval of the voters. I encourage everyone to exercise their right and vote on Tuesday.
I am 100 percent in support of this budget as proposed as it has been a work in progress for over a year. The challenges and uncertainty caused by Covid 19 has made this the never-ending budget season. We took many extraordinary steps over the past year to make sure the needs of the Town were fulfilled as best possible and the burden to our taxpayers were kept to a minimum.
When the Board of Finance approved last year’s budget we lowered the mill rate and asked our employees to make sacrifices, and they did. I felt strongly that a tax increase would be too much to ask in an already challenging environment. I also made it clear that the Board took steps to provide tax relief that would force us to swallow larger increases in the future. We deferred raises and made one time uses of fund balances that were not sustainable year over year.
In this budget the Board of Finance is providing for a large percentage increase in education as we made some difficult cuts last year and we have contractual obligations to fulfill. We have worked very closely with the Director of Finance and the Superintendent and have only adjusted the Board of Education budget down to reflect updated medical costs and restructuring some financing.
Everything that was asked for by the Board of Education in their budget was left fully funded. Mr. Bunovsky, and Mr. Kobza have worked tirelessly and have been extremely diligent in communicating with the Board of Finance and we have worked together to solve financial challenges as they arose over the past year.
The First Selectman presented the Board of Finance with the most thorough and detailed budget we had ever received. We were able to focus mostly on funding the needs of the town and how best to mitigate a potentially larger tax increase.
The results of our efforts is an increase in the Mill Rate of 2.48 percent. While this is higher than what we have asked for in the most recent years, I believe it is a very reasonable approach to a challenging financial situation.
We are still proposing using fund balance to offset some of the increase in spending but less that half of the amount budgeted last year. By gradually lowering the use of fund balance it will allow us to work thru this challenging year and get to a normalized budget approach in the next 1-2 years.
Based on our best estimates we will still stay within our fund balance policy and are able to fully fund both education and Town services while keeping a tax increase at a manageable level.
If this budget fails at referendum, I expect the vast majority of cuts would have to come from the Education side of the budget, since that represents the majority of the spending increase.
The Board of Finance unanimously supported this budget. I have already voted in favor and I would respectfully ask for your support as well. The Town of Monroe is in a strong financial position, we have a reasonable debt load, nearly fully funded our long-term obligations and continue to budget conservatively. This budget will allow us to maintain a strong balance sheet and still provide the services expected by the taxpayers we serve.
I would like to send a special thanks to the entire Board of Finance who all volunteer to make Monroe the place we want it to be and a very special thanks to the First Selectman for his much-needed leadership during a very challenging year.
Michael A Manjos
Chairman- Board of Finance