To the Editor:
The Monroe Board of Finance has forwarded for referendum the proposed 2012-13 budget. The budget balances many factors, such as the need for maintaining roads and building infrastructure, providing critical services and a quality education for our children, and improving our financial health while being sensitive to placing new demands on taxpayers in these challenging economic times. Some of these factors include:
- a proposed $2M in road repairs ($1.3M bonded, and $700K from the operating budget). This keeps us on track with the long term plan for restoring our roads before they degrade to a point where they would cost us significantly more money to maintain. It also follows a plan to slowly decrease the amount bonded per year to help reduce our outstanding debt.
- the inclusion of $210K for a full time 24/7 contracted paramedic service to enhance our volunteer EMS service, providing a faster paramedic response time to life-threatening emergencies and potentially saving lives.
- a decrease of $272K over the original proposed budget to “hibernate” Chalk Hill Middle School, with the anticipation that sufficient revenue might be generated to keep the facility open. A number of groups and businesses have expressed interest in utilizing the facility, and plans are in their formative stage. If these plans are successful, the present Board action allows for full utilization of Chalk Hill while protecting the taxpayer if they are not successful.
- a 0% increase in the Education budget. Balancing contractual increases and other non-teaching cost increases (heating oil, etc.) with excess reserve funds, the Board of Finance together with the Superintendent and the Board of Education leadership came to an unprecedented agreement for a flat budget, which will not impact teachers or programs in any way.
Keenly aware of the economic difficulties that many of us face, we have strived to keep costs as low as possible and have scrutinized every single line item in the budget. With the items above as the major driving factors, the proposed budget represents a 2.1% expenditure increase over last year’s budget. Lowering the increase below this amount would endanger critical services or infrastructure maintenance, which could cost the Town more in the long term.
The stagnant economy affects the Town as well as individuals, and the projected revenue (from grants, fees, and interest) is expected to decline by 1.49%. We eliminated any withdrawal of funds from the Town’s reserve (the “undesignated fund balance”), which works towards improving our bond rating, to reduce our interest payments and save us money in the future. Fortunately, the cost of borrowing money (debt service) and an increasing Grand List partially offsets these decreases in revenue. The final resultant mill rate increase is 1.63% (specifically, a proposed mill rate of 29.26 versus last year’s mill rate of 28.79). For an assessed property value of $100K, this would mean an increase of $47. The 1.63% mill rate increase is less than the 1.88% increase of last year, and less than the current rate of inflation of 2.4%.
The budget referendum is Tuesday April 3rd. We encourage everyone to take advantage of the special opportunity that Monroe taxpayers have, the right to vote on your budget. We believe the budget is fair, fiscally prudent and conservative, and in the best interest of all the taxpayers of Monroe.
Board of Finance, Town of Monroe,
Chris J. Baudouin
Michael Manjos, Vice-Chairman
Mark Reed, Chairman