November 22, 2014

Selectboard approves 4.4 percent budget increase

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Bond vote on new public works building on ballot

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard approved a fiscal year 2014 operating budget of $8,845,370 on Monday—a 4.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Based on current municipal grand list projections, the $370,140 budget increase equates to a rate of 24.38 cents per $100 of assessed property value, compared to the current 23.23-cent rate. Put another way, the increase would equal a tax bill hike of $11.50 per $100,000 of property value.

The fiscal year 2014 budget approved by the Selectboard represents a $79,410 decrease from the budget initially presented in early December. Cuts include a $10,000 decrease in funding for the Environmental Reserve Fund and the elimination of almost all funding for new positions or work hour increases across various town departments.

“What I’ve cut out of here are all new positions, or increases in hours, with two exceptions,” Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire told the Selectboard. “One is the police position that was requested for a full year and I put it in for a half year. And the other exception is the intern for the manager’s office. I cut in half the request (from $10,000 to $5,000 in wages).”

The Selectboard also chose not to include a request from Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton to add two full-time firefighter/EMT positions.

“I prioritize public safety. I think the town should be very, very cognizant of that, and I do feel conflicted about removing what Chief Morton says he needs,” acknowledged Selectboard member Debbie Ingram, “but also, as I said last (meeting), there have been so many people who have been suffering economically, and to ask those people to pay more, I feel bad about that, too.”

Selectboard member Chris Roy said that all things considered, he is satisfied that the budget cuts are fair.

“The impact of this budget is spread around pretty well to many different parts of the town’s services, and I think that that’s good, in that it’s not just singling one area out for the most cuts,” Roy said.

PROPOSED PUBLIC WORKS GARAGE

The Selectboard also agreed Monday to include a bond vote item on the Town Meeting Day ballot that will ask voters if they wish to authorize the construction of a new Williston Public Works facility at a total cost, including land acquisition expenses, not to exceed $5.9 million.

The measure would require the town to borrow funds through the issuance of a municipal bond, although a $70,000 earmark in the town’s capital budget, plus the sale of the town’s existing public works facility for a projected $1 million, would likely reduce the bond amount to about $4.85 million.

The estimated $5.9 million project cost represents a significant downgrade from the preliminary $7.7 million estimate presented at the Selectboard’s Jan. 14 meeting.

McGuire called the $5.9 million estimate “very, very, tight,” but noted that the project can be scaled back if necessary.

“We think we can do it for this (amount),” McGuire said. “We’ve been working with one individual contractor who thinks we can do it for this.”

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