Writer / Marcus Turner
On October 10, the Avon Town Council voted to approve a $24M budget for 2020. The unanimous vote brought to close several months of hard work and difficult discussions. Residents should notice the significant investment that Avon will be making in public safety in 2020.
Beginning in 2014, the Town Council acted to expand police services by budgeting for additional officers and supporting proactive crime reducing initiatives. At the beginning of the 2020 budget process, our Police Chief and Assistant Chief presented an analysis of call volume placed upon officers and the needs of the department. Responsibility to provide sustained funding for public safety is important but our grant funding has been exhausted. The Town Council approved a budget with an aggressive plan to add four officers – an unprecedented addition of personnel to the police department.
The Town Council was required to cut more than $400,000 from budget requests from all department heads to balance the budget and identify additional funds to add the four new officers. One would think that out of a total budget of $24M, funding four police officers would not be a big deal. We could simply defer a trail project or delay buying new vehicles for a year. Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Because most of our individual funds are highly restricted by state statute, the majority of funding personnel is largely limited to two funds — the general fund and the economic development income tax (EDIT) fund. These unrestricted funds end up fulfilling the vast majority of Avon’s personnel needs.
This significant investment in public safety came at a cost. Adding the financial burden of the new officers required corresponding cuts to both unrestricted funds. The cuts made included the elimination of the community grant program, purchase of a non-police vehicle, wellness program benefits and website updates. Other adjustments included minor reductions in paving from unrestricted funding sources, park and sidewalk maintenance and funding for a contract with the Avon Chamber of Commerce.
The decision to make these cuts was not taken lightly. The Town Council has received expressions of disappointment from many organizations that were previously funded through the grant program and the Avon Chamber of Commerce. While the Town Council is also disappointed that these cuts had to be made, it comes down to simply prioritizing needs over wants. Public safety is an important priority in Avon.
Avon Town Council President