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Town’s operating budget outlined

4-percent increase proposed

Dec. 8, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

 

It’s that time of year again.

As Williston residents continue working through their budgets for the holiday shopping season, town officials began their annual budget process in earnest on Monday with the release of the proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2013.

Town Manager Rick McGuire and Finance Director Susan Lamb appeared before the Williston Selectboard on Dec. 5 to provide an initial outline of the operating budget — proposing a 4-percent budget increase representing a $337,710 increase over the current fiscal year budget ($8,064,520). One of the driving factors for the overall increase is a hike in town health insurance costs, which increased 7.3 percent from last year.

The budgetary increase would be partially offset by the proposed 2-cent property tax increase, which would raise the municipal tax rate to 23.5 cents.

Put another way, annual property taxes for residents would increase $20 for every $100,000 of assessed home value.

“I think it’s a bargain,” McGuire said of the tax rate, despite the proposed increase. “But we can always do better on the tax rate, so as we move forward it will be a challenge for the Selectboard to go through this budget and try to identify where there might be some cost savings.”

Selectboard member Chris Roy concurred with McGuire.

“To keep things in perspective, because we have the local option tax and some other funds, we actually have — compared to other towns — a low property tax rate for municipal taxes,” said Roy. He added that each 1-cent increase to the tax rate represents $161,000 in town revenue that could be used for potential capital expenditures.

The proposed budget expenditures include a 3-percent increase in town wages, driven partly by the proposed addition to the police force.

“This budget includes no new positions, but it does include one position that had been cut out before and has been added back in. That’s in the police department,” McGuire said. “(Police Chief Roy Nelson and Interim Police Chief Douglas Hoyt have) actually recommended two positions, and the manager’s office cut it down to one.”

Although it wasn’t listed in the operating budget because it first requires a town vote, a proposed capital expenditure involves replacing the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library roof.

Lamb said that while the roof replacement would require the issuance of a municipal bond and would represent a budget increase — should residents approve the measure at Town Meeting Day — it wouldn’t significantly affect next year’s operating budget.

“We probably will be proposing a bond issue to pay for a new roof on the library,” Lamb said. “It would increase the budget, but the first year of a bond we only pay the interest, so it wouldn’t be a lot of money (in the first year).”

McGuire told the Observer on Tuesday that he hopes there will be a good public response to the budget process.

“I think it’s important to note that public input in encouraged,” McGuire said. “The earlier we get public input, the easier it is.”

The next Selectboard meeting will be held Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Williston Woods Activity Center.