On behalf of the municipal staff and volunteers, I presented the first draft of the fiscal year 2020 town budget this month. Our budget building process began this fall as we gathered historical data to begin projecting future operational costs. Over the last two months department heads have presented their operating costs for next fiscal year and their capital request for the next five years. Building this budget has been incredibly challenging. We have numerous important and competing priorities – some that require major investment and some that must be completed in order to maintain critical infrastructure.
The budget I presented represents no additional services or increase in municipal responsibilities. The budget represents what is necessary to maintain the same level of service residents receive today. In at least one case, the rescue department, this required the addition of one full-time-equivalent position. In the public works department, it means an increase in outside engineering and project management services. Outside of those two areas, increases in operating budgets represent contractual increases, healthcare increases, and increases in the cost of materials used. This fiscal year is the first in which all staff will be contributing 1.5% to their healthcare costs. However, the cost of providing health insurance has risen sharply for FY 2020. We decided to remain with CIGNA after exploring other options that were much more expensive. The budget was built using the following assumptions, provided by our current insurance carriers: Health: 7.4% increase--- Dental: 4% increase--- Vision: 6% increase.
Our paving projects this year were completed in the fall by SD Ireland whom paved the following roads: Lena Ct., Ira Place, Jonzetta Ct., James Dr., and Cobble Hill Rd. The cost to pave these roads totals $229,000. This leaves $71,000 in the paving budget for spring of 2019. We plan to make repairs to the most highly traveled roads in the worst shape in the coming year. We have in excess of $1.4 million in paving projects shovel ready and are seeking the necessary resources in the current budget proposal. This is a very challenging request to the Selectboard due to all of the other competing projects. There just isn’t enough money at the Town or State level to make all of the road repairs needed. The final decision will be left to the Selectboard, as the legislative body they have the final say on how taxpayer dollars will be spent.
Winter has arrived with a vengeance. Historically the highway department plans to be called in to work after regular working hours 30 times each plowing season. To date they have been called in to work after hours 23 times and we haven’t reached January yet. They have also used over 500 tons of salt which is approximately one quarter of our entire seasonal salt inventory. No major problems with equipment has occurred and morale remains high.
We hired engineer Jon Olin of Hoyle Tanner Consulting Engineers for the East Rd bridge work. Jon and his team met with us late last week to review preliminary design and discuss schedule. The plan is for design work and permitting to take place this winter in anticipation of bridges #5 and #6 both being replaced late next year. Construction would likely begin in the late summer. Both bridges will be constructed at the same time with East Road closed at each location. This should save money and will allow the projects to proceed without interruption in hopes they will be completed by the end of 2019.
We were happy to host the annual tree lighting event this year here at the municipal building. The crowd was great and the community Christmas tree looks wonderful! Happy Holidays!
Please feel free to contact me at the Town Manager’s office at 893-6655 or email me and I will be happy to assist you.