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First Selectman Reduces Budget by $200,000

First Selectman Steve Vavrek announces revisions to the 2013-14 budget proposal with an open letter to residents. Actuals and absentee ballots will be ready by Monday.

To the Editor,

On April 2st the voters of Monroe went to the polls and rejected a proposed budget that would have increased the mill rate by 4.24%. On April 12th I reduced the current budget request by $200,000 which reduced the mill rate increase to 4.10%. If approved at the 4/23/13 referendum, this budget will provide Monroe’s voters with much needed services which have been long needed in our community.

The expense increase request now stands at 2.17%. Over the last 4 budgets we have done a very good job of holding down expenses while still keeping to the commitment of fixing roads, our infrastructure and keeping our students and parents well educated, safe and secure.

The reductions I made did not come without hardship to municipal and education services. I have reduced municipal requests by $100,000 and further reduced the education budget request by an additional $100,000. In making these budget reductions we are perilously close to moving Monroe backwards instead of taking continual steps forward. In order to address these cuts, on the municipal side of the budget I reduced:

  • Town health insurances by $30,000
  • Parks & Recreation Equipment and Wolfe Park improvements by $20,000
  • Public Works Equipment by $10,000
  • Town Building & Maintenance – Heat by $20,000
  • Debt Service by $20,000

The Board of Education is considering a variety of non educational adjustments. Remember from the time our Superintendent announced his budget, we have reduced the Board of Education, including this $100,000, by approximately $925,000. I commend the Superintendent for working with the Board of Finance and my office for these additional cost savings.

It is fair to say that everyone associated with the budget has been working hard to provide the voters with a plan that balances needs with the ability to fund required services. However we are at a point where further reductions to this budget have the potential to negatively impact property values in Monroe.

I have spent time reviewing economic data for Monroe and our region. Every voter is aware that the housing market has been hurt during this extended economic downturn. I am sure you realize that this not only affects Monroe but the region, Connecticut and all of America.

Cutting education funds and town services will do absolutely nothing to remedy this situation. In fact, the strength of any community's real estate market and property values, in good economies and especially in bad, are directly tied to the services a town provides which includes the quality of a town’s public school system. This year we are delivering Full Day Kindergarten and enhanced safety and security services. These services have shown to enhance our property values.

Every resident has a right to question the rate of growth of Town expenses. I expect and welcome it. However there is a greater concern that all residents need to think about and that is what kind of town do they want to live in? Do we want to live in a town where prospective homeowners decide that Monroe doesn’t provide a value proposition for their future? Do we want to live in a town where we put public safety and security as a secondary concern? Do we want to close our Senior Center Edith Wheeler Memorial Library or curtail their hours of operation? Do we want to see less usage of Wolfe and Great Hollow Park?

Voters can show they DO care about the quality of life in Monroe by passing a budget on the 23nd of April that improves our roads and infrastructure, educates our children, including Full Day Kindergarten and adequately funds public safety and security,

Sincerely,

Steve Vavrek

First Selectman

Town of Monroe

Steve Kirsch April 14, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Fed Up, you are right, it is an insult. I sat in a room for almost 2hrs listening to how necessary this budget was. I listened to the support it had from those that created it (and who we elected to do so). I listened to the FS talk for weeks about how we need to address long neglected items and how critical it was to move forward. Then, he turns around and “adjusts” the proposed budget when he is not actually required to do so. I feel lied to. Obviously the budget as presented was not the best budget. Obviously there were items that were unnecessary. Obviously the FS made a no-win decision since you don’t think the reduction is large enough anyway and my dislike of the system grew because I don’t like being lied to. Oh, and by the way, this just makes it harder for everyone next year to believe that the budget that will be put forward will actually really needed.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Bob: You must have been one of those kids who, when a grown up played the "I got your nose" game. ran to their mother or to the mirror to see your face without a nose. Look up the term hyperbole, Bob. The dictionary is your friend. Use it. Your notion of my concern for how I appear in your eyes is severely misplaced. I care not a whit of how you perceive me. Your level of understanding of this whole budget process and the concerns of many (the plurality, in fact, during the last budget referendum) regarding the disregard for fiscal restraint and responsibility is so diminished as to render you functionally incapable of engaging in useful dialogue. Run along now, Bob. Let the adults in the room discuss this.
QWERTY April 14, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Jim, you're arguing with a man who thinks the library's main purpose is to serve as an emergency shelter.
Bob Loblaw April 14, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Btw... I will give you an example of your back tracking (besides this time). You always talk about "education bureaucrats" looking to fatten their wallets from full day K. When someone said you should negotiate with the teachers union, you said... no not unions I am all for unions. I said it would have been imposssible for teachers from TODAY in Monroe to have invented full day K, you said no not the teachers. When someone else said the BoE is all volunteer, you said i didn't mean the BoE members. Who EXACTLY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?? Give us the "empirical data" you DEMAND from other s? Give us three NAMES of the bureaucrats who will fatten their wallets
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 04:58 PM
QWERTY: That's becoming painfully apparent. There are many here who just don't want to hear the sorts of things that I and others have to say. There are a faction of people who want us to merely pay our tax bills in silence and impotence. When we voice a contrary view, we become the "crazies" or the "angry mob" that want to "decimate" the schools. That we may value education as high or higher than many of these zealots is missed because we differ on how to attain these goals. We're demonized so that they can project superiority of purpose. That the electoral process is disregarded is an intentional insult because we "don't know what's best for the town". They do. Some will not even grant the admission that some of our points may be valid. To do so would be to cede that we have credible arguments; something they are unwilling to do. So they sidetrack the discussion with childish postings. It gets tedious but that is their intent. They want to wear out who they deem to be adversaries so the inconvenient truths we express are silenced. I have no intention of remaining silent no matter how often I am harassed. Imagine if I did use my actual name how I would be attacked? It's frightening to think of how far these bullies will go. And we wonder why their is bullying in the schools. Such behavior is learned at home.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 05:02 PM
I'll start with six: http://www.monroeps.org/centraladmin.aspx
Steve Kirsch April 14, 2013 at 05:30 PM
JB, these central office administrators will not see any personal benefit or gain from having full day K, so I don't see how your logic flows...
Bob Loblaw April 14, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Mr. Kirsh I don't think anyone can follow his logic.
Bob Loblaw April 14, 2013 at 05:51 PM
hey its the other newest clown in town... qwerty. I never said that you are a lying clown. I said you can't just dismiss that part of their operation after you said we should. Btw I have to ask how do you guys all fit in those little cars? I have always wondered that.
kay inderdohnen April 14, 2013 at 05:51 PM
It appears I might be interfering in what seems to be a private conversation here, but I would like to make a couple of points. First, the comment about "Democracy being a thing of the past". If you're looking for Democracy, you couldn't find a more pure form than our Town Meeting. Votes are counted, majority wins. Second point: Our automatic budget referendum is the result of a Charter revision some years ago, championed by the Taxpayers Association, and everyone knows their mission was to keep a check on tax increases. Think what increases would have taken place over the years without the referendum! One thing more: You may not know that the Library's budget increase for next year is zero. The Selectman mentioned "curtailed" Library hours, and that would be a shame but a distinct possibility.
John Holmes April 14, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the Common Core State Standards. However, Jim Beam, feels the Monroe Public Schools central office staff will directly benefit from it's implementation in Kindergarten. Very strange logic indeed.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 05:58 PM
The mere exercising of our vote and the fact that we have budget referenda means nothing if the town "leadership" dismisses the intentions of the voters. The "cutting" of $200,000 on an $81 million budget dismisses the results of the most recent budget referendum. I don't need to be pacified by being "allowed" to vote. I need strong leadership that respects the will of the people. This process indicates that a desired out come by town leadership will be implemented despite the intentions of town citizens. "Pure democracy"? Poppycock.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 06:07 PM
It's called a self-sustaining employee program. Common Core State Standards were devised by educators who certainly intended to perpetuate their existence and income. I'm confused as to how my own children and many others were able to make it through school, college, and graduate school despite being "deprived" of these Common Core State Standards. That Common Core State Standards were devised doesn't make them determinative of their necessity and cost to implement and maintain. What we need is an independent analysis by outside consultants to determine the future structure and cost of our school system in an era of declining enrollments. Professional educators, though well intentioned, have a vested interest in growing allocations of dollars to school budgets. In some respects, it's a conflict of interest for them to have such a material role in the development of these budgets.
S.D. Bob Plissken April 14, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Kay: The so called "tax payers association" is really an anti-schools anti-family organization. They never have anything to say about the town, they only attack the schools. When the town increased it's budget where were they? When we bonded for the roads where were they? But when the schools want to save money via a Honeywell the town cooks are out there demanding a referendum. Also, you have to admit it is ironic when you have library volunteers and workers out in the parking lot of Big Y telling people to vote no then when the budget fails they complain about reduced funding for the library.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Steve: More employees under management and larger budgets translate into larger salaries. That's how management works. They have a self interest in ever increasing budgets and avoiding personnel cuts. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries and benefits reside in those six administrative positions?
Bob Loblaw April 14, 2013 at 07:44 PM
John you missed the part about the "time machine" they used to start full day K. Then came back to 2013 to ad it in so they can "fatten their wallets"
Steve Kirsch April 14, 2013 at 08:57 PM
JB, a review of the administrator's contract shows no such relationship between the "number of employees under management" or the size of the budgets to their compensation levels. Their salaries are based on a schedule created every three years.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Steve: Employees under management and size of the budget is not a quid pro quo with respect to administrative contracts but it is a significant aspect for determining the nature and remuneration for the position whether expressly stated or not. It has to be. Budget size and employees under management serve to determine scope of work which directly impacts compensation. Please, Steve, do not be so disingenuous as to state that their is no correlation. My point is that the growth of the administrative sector of the school budget increases budget costs without directly contributing to student education. This sort of growth tends to go unchecked and provides inertia for future increases.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Steve: I have no doubt that the Chair of the BoF said that further cuts would be a "disaster". I suspect that he actually believes that. However, what sort of disaster is he predicting? We all get sort of tired of having Chicken Little constantly running around clucking for more of our tax dollars.
John Holmes April 14, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Bob L: nothing else can explain where Jim Beam gets his information from. Beam states his misguided opinions as if they are facts. But when confronted with facts he just spews the same rhetoric over and over again. I would like to see Jim Beam state which administrators need to be cut AND why. That would be entertaining.
Jim beam April 14, 2013 at 09:56 PM
Steve Kirsch: I want to thank you for the civil exchange of ideas and opinions. I appreciate reading your commentary and certainly respect your positions. We who seek a great level of fiscal prudence in our budgets are not all Neanderthals who seek to "decimate" our school system. Some actually believe that greater educational dividends may be realized by rethinking the current educational system and budget process. A certain level of understanding of our positionby those who may deem themselves "pro-education" is deserved yet rarely expressed. Thanks, again.
Steve Kirsch April 14, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Yes, JB, the salaries of administrators go up on a per person basis. The number of administrators has actually declined over time. The salaries for all certified administrators is about $2.2M (accounts 5111 & 5112), whereas regular ed teachers are about $19M (account 5113) and certified special ed teachers are about $3.2M (acct 5114) so how are administrators the cost problem?
Alex April 15, 2013 at 04:10 AM
If they always vote no then how are our taxes so high? Clearly many increases have been passed. I'll accept a mil rate increase of no higher than 2.5%. That to me feels like a fair compromise.
Rt25 April 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM
@Kay - I agree with S.D. Bob Plissken where was the Association when we bonded for millions and millions of $$ for roads. Seems they were not concerned abot the budget costs on that one. And the library, are you really concerned about the curtailed hours for usage or how it will affect your income? Aren't you one of the library employees who is out there advocating a NO vote on the budget???
Alex April 15, 2013 at 01:04 PM
So Steve, you don't consider "Office Personnel and Management" (5128) as administrators? That's another 1.6 million on top of the 2.2 million you mentioned.
Bob Loblaw April 15, 2013 at 04:31 PM
The question still remains. Who EXACTLY are the bureaucrats IN MONROE who want full day K implemented IN MONROE for the express purpose of "fattening their wallets"? I have not seen that empirical data that is demanded of others.
Steve Kirsch April 15, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Alex, you wrote: “So Steve, you don't consider "Office Personnel and Management" (5128) as administrators? That's another 1.6 million on top of the 2.2 million you mentioned” The people in account # 5128 are not administrators. They are general employee (my words) positions, which include people such as secretaries, non affiliated IT staff, non-affiliated human resources positions and finance positions. Keep in mind that there are specific bargaining units for various groups of workers and furthermore some positions, such as administrators, require specific certifications and have specific job functions.
parent April 16, 2013 at 11:24 PM
Jim Beam- You should do a little research and see where the Common Core State Standards came from... you may be surprised to learn that they were not written by educators at all. So, I guess your quote that "Common Core State Standards were devised by educators who certainly intended to perpetuate their existence and income" is about as reliable as much of the other "facts" you fill your posts with...
Alex April 16, 2013 at 11:36 PM
You're just arguing about words now. Sure some of 5128 probably fund things outside of the main office but are you telling me it doesn't help fund the central office and main offices of each school as well? To me, a financial position in a school system would be part of the overall administration, maybe you disagree. If you want to say those other two line items represent administrators as in managerial/director salaries of various departments and principals only then I would agree, but you'd need to add in at least some of 5128 to see the total cost of "administrating" the school system.
Steve Kirsch April 17, 2013 at 06:37 AM
Alex, yes, administrators are the "leaders" and they do carry a specific definition in terms of the education system. Also, keep in mind that this discussion started when statements were made about administrators and their salaries and their contracts. I don't think that anyone was trying to say that some finance person's pay is based on the number of employees or students. We were not talking about just anyone who is part of running the business operations of the school system.

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