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Council Approves an $81.3 Million Budget with a 3.38% Increase

The 2013-14 proposal will now head to the Board of Finance.

The Town Council cut First Selectman Steve Vavrek's budget proposal by $475,983 Monday night and approved a total $81.26 million budget for 2013-14 with a 3.38% spending increase over the current year.

The proposal was approved by a vote of 7-2, with Democrats Nick Kapoor and Dee Dee Martin voting against it.

"To prepare a budget for our town is a daunting task every year, but this year is even more difficult," said Chairwoman Enid Lipeles. "Citizens always have very strong opinions on the budget. This makes our jobs as elected officials that much more challenging — how do we provide the necessary services to our citizens without overextending the taxpayers that have to foot the bill? ... We were as fiscally conservative as we could be."

Town Councilman J.P. Sredzinski said the first selectman had presented an "ambitious" budget that includes money for maintenance, infrastructure, more funding for the town's three fire departments, and technology and security upgrades — including three school resource officers.

"I hope this budget will be supported in the first referendum," Sredzinski said.

During his First Selectman's Update, Vavrek said, "I hope you support a budget that's choc full of services for the first time in a few years. I support the budget that I put out and I hope everyone will support it when it eventually gets out to the voters."

The 2013-14 budget proposal will now head to the Board of Finance before making its way to a Town Meeting that will convene to a referendum vote.

The Opposition

Both Kapoor and Martin disagreed with specific cuts from proposals, including two police dispatchers, reduced raises for part-time library staff and $10,000 for the maintenance of the Senior Center. They also wanted a part-time economic development director to be added to the budget, a Building Department office assistant to be made full time, and more funding for legal expenses.

Martin and Kapoor also disagreed with the contention of some Republicans on the council that there was enough discussion on the creation of "rolling stock", an account in which the town borrows money from itself to replace vehicles and pays itself back in five years at no interest.

"For us it was a priority," Martin said after the meeting. "If we voted for the budget, we wouldn't have a leg to stand on when explaining what we didn't like about it."

Town Councilman Frank Lieto, a Republican, said, "I didn't see the Democrats making any motions to compromise during our workshops."

For instance, when the Council moved to take two police dispatchers out of the budget, Lieto said Democrats could have proposed adding one instead.

Rick Strong February 26, 2013 at 11:20 AM
How TYPICAL of Monroe Democrats. They alsovoted no to the Board of Education budget - 2 years running! Thank the stars they are the minority and better heads prevail each year to keep Monroe moving without absolutely killing the taxpayers. Heck, can we get an explanation from ALL of them why they voted no?
Eve Grace February 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM
It's because, as we've seen here with Kapoor seemingly politicizing everything in sight, they're there to play politics, not provide leadership for the town.
Sheila D February 26, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Mr. Strong and Ms. Grace, your statements sounds quite biased in my opinion. No matter how people vote, it is up to us the voters to find out WHY they voted that way by attending the meetings and/or watching the televised meeting in the case of the Board of Education. Personally, I watched the last two budget votes for BoE and in fact Mr. Strong, your statement is completely false about all Democrats voting against the budget the last two years. This year's BoE vote WAS correct in your statement, but after listening to their arguments on why they were not supporting it, I chose not to politicize the vote and simply listened and understood their stand. Not saying I supported it or not, but they had their reasonings, just like the Republicans do. It doesn't always have to be about political parties by the way. Elected officials usually choose to be one party affiliation or another based off of their ideals on how they think our town government should look or be handled. That doesn't always make it political, it is a reflection of what issues they find important. It's more important to me to listen to what they say during discussion than how/when they raise their hand.
Tom Barnaby February 26, 2013 at 01:30 PM
This from US News most expensive and taxed cities: how did they miss Monroe. 3. Bridgeport, Conn. $25,000 7 1,786 626 174 2,592 10.40% $75,000 2,514 3,998 1,174 302 9,670 12.90% $150,000 6,850 7,612 1,851 738 20,255 13.50% City/Gross Family Income Income Tax Property Tax Sales Tax Auto Tax Total Tax Share of Income I only wish my property tax was 7600. And don't start with the inane then move crap.
Donna Gail February 26, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Wow, without any details a couple of you are ready to crucify "all" democrats. Who's making this political? Maybe Lieto, with his comments? I'm sure Martin & Kapoor would be happy to give full explanations for why they voted the way they did. What I'd like to know is, did they leave in the first selectman's $30,000 for his own 4WD vehicle? How much of an increase did they leave for the part-time librarians? What did they do with some of the other departmental requests?
Alex February 26, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Didn't our budget pass by only 30 votes last year? Things needed to be cut to make it even remotely palatable for tax payers. Even with the new proposed increase I'd be shocked if it passes on the first try.
Alex February 26, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Good Point Donna. Wait till they post the revised budget on the town's site. I'd also like to know whether the first selectman's 4WD vehicle is still in this "fiscally conservative budget".
Steve Kirsch February 26, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Eve, you need to understand that Mr. Kapoor actually supported many of the budget priorities presented by the First Selectman. It was the Republicans that cut dollars and / or positions over the objections of the Democrates. It should also be pointed out that Mr. Kapoor offered a number of his own amendments and I think (I need to see the official minutes to confirm) all of them were voted down. Lastly, as was noted by many of the council members in their closing statements, they worked well togther during this process, so I would disagree that anyone was politicizing anything. Oh, and by they way I actually attended the meeting.
Steve Kirsch February 26, 2013 at 03:17 PM
No, it was removed.
Todd Fox February 26, 2013 at 05:01 PM
We must be careful what we wish for! As you know our local property taxes are based on a mil rate. The mil rate is different in every town and city in Connecticut. The mil rate is the tax levied on $1,000 of assessed property value. The mil rate in Bridgeport was a mind-boggling 41.11 in 2012. This means that a person in Bridgeport who owns a house that has been assessed at $100,000 paid $4,111 a year in property taxes. The mil rate in Monroe in 2012 was, I believe, 29.26. A person living in Monroe paid $2,926 a year on a house assessed at $100,000. When we see a 3.38% increase in the town budget for the year, it's easy to forget that this does not mean that property taxes will go up by 3.38% Why? Because the town budget is only one small part of what our property taxes go to pay for. The lion's share of our property taxes go to pay for schools. I don't have an exact figure, but typically 70% to 80% of our property taxes go to the schools. Taxes are based on the school budget + the town budget. The town budget is a drop in the bucket. The way we pay for education in Connecticut would have people up in arms if they took a moment to think about it. But the mil rate system is so convoluted that it flies under the radar. The wealthiest towns and cities actually pay the least proportionally. Greenwich has a mil rate of only 10.38. That's right. The people of Monroe pay nearly three times as much per every $100,000 of assessed property in order to fund education.
QWERTY February 26, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Are we suppose to be grateful for a 3.38% increase?! Seems like we're all bickering over pennies when the reality is my taxes are going up ANOTHER $250.
anon February 26, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Donna, exactly what political comment did Mr. Lieto make that is so bad? ... he just stated what he felt was an honest observation ... {"I didn't see the Democrats making any motions to compromise during our workshops."} ... and he gave an example
Peter Lucia February 26, 2013 at 07:10 PM
The increase of 3.38% appears to be the spending incresae. Depending on how much of a shortfall on the revenue side from last year, the tax increase in all likelihood will be higher.
Steve Kirsch February 26, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Todd, just so that it is clear, the 3.38% is the total increase in spending, including the BOE budget which the Town Council does not actually touch. The 3.38% will likely change when the BOF makes their changes.
Paul Sobel February 26, 2013 at 08:19 PM
When the first selectman announced his budget, per the Patch report on 2/12, it had a 3.98% spending increase, and he estimated that would result in a 5.24% increase in the mill rate. By the way, the governor's proposed budget calls for the elimination of personal property tax on automobiles. If the state legislature approves the elimination of the car tax, even with a 0% municipal spending increase, the mill rate would skyrocket.
Schap February 26, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Rather then the normal political bull, the T/C reduced the F/S original proposal by $475,983.00 dollars. I believe that the T/C reviewed each department and was able to ask questions and get answers at all the work sessions. The T/C did their job and are recommending these changes. Not all on the council agree with all the changes, but there was plenty of opportunities to get answers. Being an active participant representing the citizens of the town, I can honestly say that the T/C let both myself and Steve Kirsh ask questions when we felt the public needed more explanation.Nobody gets all that they want and one who is elected gets to vote either yea or ney. The next opportunity is Wednesday night with a public meeting on budgets in front of the BOF. If someone feels strong about an item that was left out or added in then the T/C member can speak at the open forum and address their concerns.
Todd Fox February 26, 2013 at 11:56 PM
Thank you Steve Kirsch for that clarification. Do you know the percentage by which the education budget increased and the percentage which the municipal budget increased? (Is that the right name to use to describe the town as opposed to the BOE budget?) Did both increase by 3.38%?
Alex February 27, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Todd: http://www.monroect.org/resources/8/Monroe%20Budget%20Presentation%202013-14%20final.pdf That's a simple breakdown so you can see all the proposed increases including the BOE's budget changes. There's a full line item budget on our town's site too if you go to the main page.
Alex February 27, 2013 at 03:18 AM
That is a rather concerning issue about the car tax. I guess we're paying it one way or another.
Steve Kirsch February 27, 2013 at 08:50 AM
Todd, the BOE increase is proposed at 3.14%. Since the BOE is such a large portion of the over all town budget, it means that a total increase of 3.38% has a larger percentage increase for the town portion than the BOE portion. I have not seen the fully revised budget document so I can't quote the exact percentage that the town side increased.
Joel Leneker February 27, 2013 at 07:20 PM
The word on the street is that 4WD vehicle has all ready been ordered. But I could be wrong. Best to ask the Town Council or selectman directly
jim laguardia February 27, 2013 at 09:27 PM
if that is true you should spread the word over on some other threads (kapoor explains no vote, and elected officials get raise)

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