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A show of support

Hundreds march in support of BOE proposal

Over a thousand students, residents and supporters march to show support for the Avon Board of Education’s proposed 2010-11 budget Monday night in Avon.

AVON, April 5 – Over an estimated thousand students, parents, teachers, school employees and residents marched about a mile to Avon High School Monday night in support of the Board of Education’s proposed 2010-11 budget.

After the rally, organized by the Coalition of Citizens for Avon, nearly 700 residents squeezed inside the high school auditorium to present their views to the Board of Finance in a public hearing. It was a pro-education crowd but there were several speakers that spoke in opposition of the Board of Education’s proposed budget.

The Board of Education is proposing a 6.91 increase in its current operating budget, which the BOE says maintains the current school system and meets contractural and mandated obligations.

It is a large increase compared to the size of increases that has passed in referendums over the previous years. The town budget must be approved each year in a referendum by town voters.

In 2009, the town’s mill rate rose just 1.65 percent. In 2008, the Town Council authorized a 3.84 percent in the mill rate after the proposed budget was defeated three times. Since a 5.41 percent increase in the mill rate was approved in 2002, the mill rate has increased higher than 3 percent just once in 2008.

Thomas Harrison, chairman of the Board of Finance, admitted in the hearing that the Board of Finance does take into consideration how the town has voted in recent years in referendums.

Still, it was a pro-education crowd. Resident Tom West asked the Board of Finance to let the people decide the fate of the school budget. “Let the voters decide,” West said. “You have the power to put this before the voters. If it fails, it fails but let us make the decision.”

Resident Max Ward is retired and has lived in town for over 30 years. He had three children go through the Avon school system. “I support the budget increase,” he said. “These children deserve what we received. It is the right thing to do.”

Dozens of residents patiently waited for their turn to share their thoughts with the Board of Finance and some opposed the Board of Education request. “This is a teaching moment for our children,” resident Susan Pereslugoff said. “We can’t spend what we don’t have. There has to be a meeting in the middle.”

Resident Diane Carey added, “These are tough economic times. We can’t afford a hefty increase in our property taxes and I don’t hear anyone offering any solutions.”

The Board of Education has proposed a budget of $46.9 million for 2010-11, an increase of $3.03 million over its current budget. They also presented residents of what cuts would need to be made if its request was reduced. Some cuts including the elimination of the varsity ice hockey team, varsity swimming program and all freshman sports at the high school.

Other proposed cuts in programs include elimination of 40 jobs including teachers, guidance counselors and paraprofessionals, elimination of music programs, clubs and activities and language programs at the middle school and high school.

The Board of Education made a 20-minute presentation of its proposal along with the Town Council. BOE chairwoman Peggy Roell and interim school superintendent Jody Goeler addressed the hearing.

The Board of Finance will hold a budget workshop on Wednesday, April 7 at the Senior Center but there will be no public comments allowed. The public is welcome to attend. They will hold another budget workshop on April 14, if needed.

A town meeting will be held on Monday, May 3 at the Senior Center and the budget referendum will be Wednesday, May 12.

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Avon Board of Finance

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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