Bristol eyes possible 1.8 percent tax hike

BRISTOL — Bristol selectmen, worried about cutting too close to the bone in the 2010-2011 municipal budget, are asking town residents to approve a 1.18 percent increase in taxes this year to fund a proposed $1.9 million spending plan.
If approved by voters at the town meeting on March 1, the budget would be supported by $1,558,632 in taxes.
“If we cut too much we’re going to end up paying for it later,” Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan said at the board’s meeting Monday night.
Selectman Sharon Compagna agreed.
“It’s pretty bare bones,” she said Monday night, when the board approved a warning for Town Meeting Day. “It’s going to come back to bite us (if we cut too much now).”
The fiscal year 2010 budget includes:
• A $425,360 allocation to the town’s general operating fund, up 3.19 percent from last year.
• $616,547 for the town’s highway department, down 0.43 percent from 2009.
• A 2.36 percent increase in funding for the town’s recreation department, from $137,274 in 2009 to $140,516 next year;
• A $376,209 in voted appropriations, up 1.21 percent from last year.
The proposed tax increase is smaller than last year’s 2.86 percent hike, and selectmen voiced concern that making any more severe cuts would only shift expenses to future spending plans and chip away at the integrity of the town’s reserve funds.
Selectmen also opted to put the bulk of the town’s surplus from the 2008-2009 fiscal year into the capital building fund instead of offsetting taxes, a decision they hope will lessen the burden of improvement projects on the horizon.
Town Administrator Bill Bryant said some of those projects include a new town salt shed and a fresh coat of paint for the assembly room at Holley Hall. He said that, realistically, the $20,000 the town appropriates each year to its capital building fund isn’t enough to maintain the town’s historic buildings.
In other business at the March 1 town meeting Bristol voters will also be asked to weigh in on an article that would request the Vermont Legislature deny approval for the operation of Vermont Yankee after 2012.
The selectboard agreed to add the nonbinding article to the warning for the annual meeting after Bristol residents signed a petition in favor of the article. Bristol resident Bunny Daubner told selectmen on Monday that because Bristol residents get their power from Central Vermont Public Service Corp., which buys power from Vermont Yankee, Bristol residents have a stake in what happens to the nuclear power plant.
“A lot of people are very concerned about Vermont Yankee,” Daubner said. “It’s kind of a time bomb sitting there.”
Voters at the annual meeting will also determine whether or not to allow the selectboard to spend up to $70,000 from the capital equipment reserve fund to purchase a tractor for roadside mowing. The tractor would replace the 1995 International/Case tractor the town currently uses, and proceeds from the sale of the old tractor would be deposited back into the capital equipment reserve fund.
Twenty-five service organizations — ranging from WomanSafe to the Counseling Service of Addison County — will appear on the ballot requesting sums that are level-funded or lower than last year’s request. In total, the groups are asking for $74,625.
On March 2, Town Meeting Day, voters will take to the polls to weigh in by Australian ballot on several town issues. Two selectmen — Carol Wells and Compagna — are running unopposed for reelection to their seats. A seat on the library board is also up for election; no one in Bristol had filed a petition indicating an intention to run for the seat by Monday’s filing deadline.
Finally, in the culmination of years of planning and work, both a proposed Town Plan and a new Bristol extraction ordinance will also head before voters (see story).

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