AVON, May 11, 2020 – The Board of Finance in Avon voted unanimously on Monday night, 7-0. to pass a $98.7 million budget for the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year and not raise taxes. The mill rate will remain 32.90.
Thomas Harrison, the Republican chairman of the Board of Finance, has been living in town for more than 30 years and he said there has never been a year that taxes did not go up.
But he was in favor of the proposal not to raise taxes due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and the serious disruption that the contagious disease has brought in Connecticut, the United State and throughout the world.
“Residents have been lobbying me and other members of this board to please give us a break on the mill rate,” Harrison said. “In my view, this is not the year to raise taxes. We do have to take some bold action. Resident of various income ranges are suffering.”
Harrison said that taxes will go up next year. “My thinking is that this is one-time situation,” he said.
There will be no town referendum of the budget due to the COVID-19 crisis. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order on March 21 that, in part, suspended the in-person budget adoption requirement for cities and towns.
The original budget recommended by the Town Council early March was $99.8 million, which would have resulted in a 3.47 increase in taxes.
Working with the Town Council, the Board of Education and the staff of Town Manager Brandon Robertson, the budget was reduced $1.63 million. The Board of Education cut their budget by $378,000 while the town reduced their budget by $766,000, which included a $267,000 reduction in the town’s contribution to the state OPEB funds for items such as the state teacher’s retirement fund and retirement funds for judges.
The Board of Finance also approved use of $1.8 million from the town’s strategic reserve fund of $10.9 million or rainy day fund. In town budget documents, the fund is called unassigned fund balance.
Robertson said that the town’s financial advisor recommended that the Board of Finance use just $1.3 million from the strategic reserve fund and raise taxes by 0.52 percent. Robertson also warned the Board of Finance that the $267,000 reduction in OPEB funds won’t go away. It will have to be paid eventually.
Last week, Robertson said the strategic reserve fund is hard to replenish. It usually gets an infusion of cash from unused town and/or school funds at the end of a fiscal year, he said.
But Board of Finance members said were swayed by comments they received from the public. Twenty-four pages of comments from nearly 70 residents were entered into the meeting minutes. Many called for no increases in taxes while others called for a tax reduction.
Because of the pandemic, there were no public meetings so residents wanting to make comments on the budget had to email their thoughts or send a letter to the town.
The 0.0 percent increase in taxes is the lowest in the last 20 years. Avon has been holding referendums on the town budget since 1999. In 2009, they rose 1.65 percent and in 2015, they went up 1.69 percent.
Robertson said the latest unemployment figures from the state of Connecticut said that 8.6 percent of the more than 9,000 working age adults in Avon have filed claims for unemployment benefits.
More than 150 people attended the virtual meeting held on the Go-Meeting platform on Monday night. Members of the Board of Education and Town Council also participated in Monday night’s meeting.