Ferrisburgh board adopts budget; taxes seen stable

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh selectmen on Tuesday approved a roughly $1.619 million town budget for fiscal year 2013, but on Town Meeting Day Ferrisburgh voters will have the option of adding up to $79,000 to that bottom line.
The selectboard’s spending proposal does not include about $29,000 of charitable donations that Ferrisburgh residents typically back in March, plus two articles that would create capital funds: $30,000 for the town’s fire department and $30,000 for the public works department.
If voters support those proposals, the town’s overall spending would increase from about $1.631 million (including this year’s charitable donations) to $1.698 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
That $68,000 change would represent about a 4 percent increase.
Because a penny on the Ferrisburgh property tax rate raises about $45,000, the municipal rate could go up by about 1.5 cents.
But according to preliminary Addison Northwest Supervisory Union estimates, the town’s school tax rate could be stable or even drop (See story, this page).
ANwSU officials said their estimates are based on early information provided by state officials, and caution that the Legislature could tinker with funding formulas and the statewide school tax rate this winter. However, it appears Ferrisburgh’s tax rate may not climb this year.
Before charitable contributions were figured into the town budget a year ago, it stood at about $1.57 million. However, the increase in spending to $1.619 million is actually not as large as it appears: In March 2011 funds for the Bixby Library were considered a voter-approved charitable contribution, and this year Bixby funding has been shifted to the proposed town budget, where it is a $37,907 line item.
As for the capital funds, selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the fire department money would be devoted to the eventual purchase of a new firetruck. Selectmen hope the public works fund would serve a dual purpose, both to help future major purchases and to protect Ferrisburgh in the event of catastrophic events like those Vermont experienced in 2011.
“We feel very fortunate that our costs were lower that many towns for Tropical Storm Irene,” Lawrence said.
Within the proposed budget net costs are similar, but there are a few changes. Proposed general administration spending is up by $13,000, but it includes the roughly $38,000 for the Bixby Library.
Lawrence said selectmen agreed with town listers that it was not necessary to rush to finish the town’s real estate reappraisal in 2012, and $30,000 will be carried over from the current budget to the upcoming spending plan to allow the project to be finished next year.
Officials noted that the town’s ratio of assessed value to fair market value is currently almost exactly accurate according to state figures — Ferrisburgh’s common level of appraisal (CLA) stands at about 99 percent. CLAs measure the ratio of towns’ assessments to real estate sales.
Selectmen are proposing to increase highway spending by about $39,500. According to Assistant Town Clerk Pam Cousino, the major portion of that hike would pay for a used one-ton truck.
Also, within the road budget there is a major cost shift from bridge repair to paving. In the current year the town had to devote resources to replacing the Hollow Road bridge. With the completion of that project, road construction/bridge repair will drop from $142,500 to $75,000, while paving is set to rise from $130,000 to $190,000.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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