The Selectboard approved the fiscal year 2020 town budget this month. It is now on to the voters for approval on Town Meeting Day Tuesday, March 5. This budget does not increase municipal responsibilities and represents what is necessary to maintain the same level of service residents receive today. The major changes are as follows:
1. Debt Service increased by $194,845 –this is the principle and interest on bonds approved by voters in March 2018. The funds will be used for East Road bridge work, road restoration work, the purchase of a fire truck, grader, loader, excavator and a sidewalk plow. This is being partially offset by restoring a $100,000 transfer from the fund balance to the general fund. Last year we reduced the annual transfer from $340,000 to $240,000 in anticipation of the new debt.
2. Selectboard and Manager approved contractual increases:
- Payroll/Benefits $140,843
- Taxes/Assessments $5,061
- Property/Casualty/Worker's Comp Insurance $7,616
- Audit Services $5,500
3. Rescue budget increased by $52,905 which is necessary in order to maintain existing 24/7 level of service. Two full-time employees will be added to support the current volunteers and per-diems that currently staff the department. This will also allow the department to transition to para-medicine in the near future.
4. Winter salt/chloride/gravel/guardrails/sidewalks increased by $53,000 total.
5. Paving decrease of $ 65,000. However, there will be a $1 million debt article proposed to voters for paving on the ballot. $235,000 is included in the highway budget which would cover $35,000 for first interest payment on $1 million note (if approved) and $200,000 for paving whether debt articles passes or fails. We will also apply for State paving grants to add funds in years two through five.
6. Dispatching services decrease of $39,000 across three departments (Police, Fire, Rescue) for change in provider.
7. Allocations to outside agencies have a net decrease of $15,372.40. Milton Family Community Center will receive an increase of $4,330 to cover the cost of increased demand for senior transportation (SSTA) services.
The tax rate would increase two cents based on zero grand list growth and the likelihood of another downgrade in value of the Green Mountain Power hydro dams. If passed, the town portion of your property taxes on a $250,000 home would increase annually by fifty-three dollars. We have important and competing priorities – some that require major investment and some that must be completed in order to maintain critical infrastructure. This budget will not fund some of the major challenges we face but, I feel this is a responsible budget that meets the immediate needs of the town.
Winter has continued to provide lots of work for the highway crew. The highway department had twelve more call- ins in December which exceeds what was budgeted for the entire season, working 209.5 hours above and beyond they’re regularly scheduled shifts. Further, to date we have spent $108,000 of our $180,000 salt budget. It is likely that with another large storm bearing down on us this weekend we will exceed the salt and overtime budgets for the fiscal year. No major equipment problems to report.
The Selectboard approved a design for bridge number five (near Hall Farm) on East Rd. earlier this month. Engineer Jon Olin of Hoyle Tanner Consulting Engineers proposed raising the grade of the road by five feet. This will drastically improve the approach from both ends of the bridge and overall safety. 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 2019.
The finance department led by Director Jessica Morris does an exceptional job managing both the Town and School finances. We received the annual Town audit report last week. The report is very positive and the Town is in good financial shape. Thank you Jess, Jackie, Celeste, Hally and Doris.
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.