Jan. 27, 2011By Tim Simard Observer staff
The Williston Selectboard approved a municipal budget proposal Monday night that will increase town spending and raise property taxes by a small amount. The 2011-2012 town budget proposal retains current services and represents no major cuts to Williston’s infrastructure.
Residents will vote on the budgets and bonds on March 1, Town Meeting Day.
The board unanimously supported the $8.06 million budget, along with a capital improvement plan that runs through 2017. The improvement plan lists several town projects that will need attention in the next five years, such as the construction of a recreation park at Allen Brook School and the replacement of older town equipment.
The board also OK’d the water and sewer budget proposals. Both budgets are expected to increase ratepayers’ bills. Sewer fees are expected to climb by nearly $1 per 1,000 gallons of usage, with water usage dues projected to increase by 25 cents per 1,000 gallons.
The $8.06 million budget represents a 4.1 percent increase over the current municipal budget. Town Manager Rick McGuire’s original budget proposal was about $75,000 more than what Selectboard members approved Monday. Board members asked McGuire to reduce the budget to a number that would denote only a half-cent increase in property taxes.
Based on McGuire’s recommendations, the board removed $25,000 for construction on the planned Allen Brook park. McGuire told the board the project would still begin this spring, although on a smaller scale. The Recreation Department already has funds set aside for the first phase of construction, and other funding could come through impact fees, he said.
The board also decided to hold off on $33,000 for a new highway truck. McGuire said the need for the vehicle remains, but can wait until a future fiscal year. McGuire also said $20,000 in additional revenue could be moved from the town’s general fund to offset further tax increases.
The half-cent property tax increase means individuals owning a $200,000 home can expect to see their current taxes of $420 escalate by $10; taxes on a $300,000 home will rise about $15, McGuire said. The half-cent increase is an estimate, as the Selectboard will not set Williston’s tax rate until June, McGuire said after the meeting.
Similarly, the Selectboard will not finalize the water and sewer rates until June. Projections have water rates rising to $3 per 1,000 gallons, up from the current $2.75 per 1,000 gallons. The expected increase is due to growing expenditures in the water department.
An expected upsurge in sewer usage in town and rising costs in capital improvements led to a projected sewer rate of $4.85 per 1,000 gallons. The current rate is $3.86 per 1,000 gallons.
In addition to the municipal budget and separate from the expected sewer fee hikes for ratepayers, residents will vote on a $1.5 million bond to upgrade the town’s sewer system. Many sewer lines are more than 20 years old. The board said the bond money would be used for only “reasonable maintenance.”
Voters will also decide on a resolution to connect the Meadowridge subdivision to Williston’s sewer system. This resolution includes a $600,000 bond to pay for connection costs. Residents in Meadowridge would pay the money back, with interest, over time.
The Selectboard unanimously approved both bond proposals.
In September, Meadowridge residents approached the Selectboard about hooking up to the town’s sewer system. One of the subdivision’s two septic systems kept failing even after costly repair attempts. Deeming the problem a potential public health hazard, the board approved a plan to link Meadowridge’s 60 homes to a South Road sewer line.
If voters approve the resolution, the town will create a special assessment district for Meadowridge. The cost of the project will initially fall to the town, which will recoup the cost from the development’s homeowners, McGuire said.
“I’m sure the Meadowridge folks who have a vested interest in this will be getting the word out to people,” board member Chris Roy said.