Selectboard sets municipal tax rate at expected level

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Selectboard approved a municipal property tax rate of 11.7 cents for the upcoming 2005-06 fiscal year at its meeting Monday night.

The rate marks a slight decrease over the 12-cent rate town officials had estimated for the year based on the municipal budget approved in March. The municipal property tax rate in the current year is 8 cents.

The increase in the municipal rate can largely be attributed to the voters’ approval in November of a $6.8 million bond to fund new public safety facilities and the inclusion of $147,300 in the municipal budget to fund CCTA bus service in Williston — an unprecedented commitment from the town for CCTA.

The owner of a $250,000 property in Williston will pay $292.50 in municipal property taxes in the new fiscal year, which starts Friday.

Without the revenue provided by the municipal reserves and the local sales and rooms and meals taxes, the municipal rate would have been 38.7 cents, according to a memo by Town Finance Director Susan Lamb. The local taxes reduced the rate by 24 cents alone. For a $250,000 property, the savings amounts to $600.

In past years, the Selectboard has used excess revenues from the local sales and rooms and meals taxes to lower the municipal property tax rate further in June. However, this year the Selectboard had committed $500,000 from the municipal reserves to the public safety facilities project.

Lamb said the reserves at the end of the new fiscal year should total $828,000. The reserves will total about $1,668,000 at the end of the current fiscal year. Town policy requires reserves equaling between 10 and 20 percent of the municipal budget. Under the current plans for the new fiscal year, reserves will equal about 14 percent of the budget.

Lamb said the state has set the education tax rate for Williston, but the town had not received it in the mail by Tuesday afternoon. She said the state would not inform the town of the rate over the phone or via fax.

The projected education tax rate for residential properties was $1.61 in March when voters approved the Williston School District budget. The non-residential rate was $1.58.

If the estimate is correct, the combined property tax rate for homeowners in Williston will be about $1.73 per $100 in valuation. The rate means the owner of a $250,000 house will pay $4,325 in property taxes in the coming fiscal year.