Monroe residents will vote on $91.3M budget with 2.48 percent tax increase that adds services

Monroe Town Hall Offices at 7 Fan Hill Road in Monroe, Conn. on Monday May 13, 2013.

Monroe Town Hall Offices at 7 Fan Hill Road in Monroe, Conn. on Monday May 13, 2013.

Cathy Zuraw / Cathy Zuraw

MONROE — Town taxpayers will be back to voting on a 2021-22 fiscal year budget after a year’s pause, this one calling for a 2.48 percent tax hike.

The Board of Finance, at its Zoom meeting late last week, unanimously finalized a $91,321,536 budget, a $3,705,216, or 4.23 percent hike from the present fiscal year. It will be sent to referendum on May 4. If approved as proposed, the town’s mill rate would jump to 36.36.

Last year, the referendum was canceled because of the pandemic under Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order that allowed the Board of Finance to approve the final town budget.

“I believe this keeps education whole and keeps the tax increase of 2.48 percent on the mill rate as a reasonable compromise,” Board of Finance Chair Mike Manjos said. “Last year, we had a zero increase, and we are not able to do that over multiple years.

"I think we still need a lot of effort and positive reinforcement out there to get this to pass the first time,” Manjos added. “I’d love to see that happen, so hopefully we can spread the word.”

The education budget stands at $61.5 million, a $3 million — 5.16 percent —increase, while the municipal side rose 2.36 percent to $29.8 million, a $686,091 increase. The finance board also voted to send the proposed $11.5 million capital budget to the voters.

The Board of Finance’s budget includes using about $3 million of the unassigned fund balance in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget to keep taxes lower.

For the present fiscal year, the Board of Finance included $8 million from the fund balance to aid in keeping taxes lower. To date, First Selectman Ken Kellogg said he expects less than $4 million of that amount will be spent.

“We are proposing a reduced but responsible use of some of this fund balance again in fiscal year ‘21‐22 while we transition out of the public health emergency,” Kellogg said. “It’s not something we do lightly, but I feel is the right thing to do.

“We are also hopeful that when details are released regarding use of the American Rescue Plan funds, we will be able to return some of those dollars into our fund balance,” Kellogg added.

Kellogg said that without the town’s grand list growth, reductions in spending and use of alternative funding, taxes would grow at a rate he would be unwilling to place before the voters.

"Through our efforts we’ve been able to reduce the increase to less than 2 ½ percent, while covering all our rising costs ranging from health insurance to our contractual union increases,” Kellogg said about the municipal side of the budget.

“The most challenging aspect (of the budget process) continues to be our education costs,” Kellogg said, “which comprise more than two-thirds of the entire town budget, and expenditures there are growing at more than 5 percent this year.”

Kellogg said officials were able to keep town spending at only 2.4 percent growth, even while adding resources to the building department to enhance service and keep up with increased volume.

“That cost is covered by increased revenue from more permitting activity,” Kellogg said.

The first selectman said he also included funds for a newly envisioned economic development position that will also support securing grants and project management.

“This is directly connected to our desire to continue to increase our grand list and shift the tax burden away from families,” Kellogg said.

The budget also increases funding for ongoing road improvements and paving, Kellogg said.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com