Bristol budget would raise taxes 6 percent

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard took out its budgetary scalpel at its Monday meeting to further shave down a fiscal year 2013 municipal spending plan.
But despite the board cutting an additional $6,000 from the budget that evening, they OK’d a 2012-2013 spending plan that would result in an increase of $96,647, or 5.96 percent, in the amount to be raised by taxes.
Bristol voters at their March town meeting will consider total municipal spending next year of $2,099,246 — with $1,717,446 coming from property taxes. The municipal budget encompasses the general operating fund, spending in the highway and recreation departments, and other appropriations.
Town Administrator Bill Bryant explained that the bulk of the proposed spending increase stems from three items:
•A $37,180 bond payment for the 2010 storm-water project on North Street.
•A $10,000 increase in the amount paid to a new auditor. Bryant explained that the town previously received below-market prices for this legally mandated service.
•$5,000 for general election costs, such as printing ballots, programming voting machines and having extra staff on hand.
Without those line items, this year’s spending plan would reflect about a 2.7 percent increase, with increases across the board.
The general operating fund reflects a 5.27 percent, or $25,310, increase in the amount raised by taxes. The auditing and general election costs account for $15,000 of this increase, said Bryant, and town officials are planning to make some small administrative additions, like a part-time zoning administrator.
The highway department budget features a 7.17 percent, or $45,123, increase in the amount raised by taxes. Bryant said the highway bond accounts for the majority of that increase. The other major increases are $8,000 more for extra paving and $1,000 set aside for construction on the South Street Bridge in the upcoming years. Many other budget lines fluctuated slightly, said Bryant.
The recreation department budget features a 19.85 percent, or $24,527, increase in the amount raised by taxes. When asked about this large increase, Bryant explained: “It reflects the switch of $7,200 out of the recreation club appropriation into the recreation department budget for The Hub’s rent. And it reflects two employees eligible for health insurance taking health insurance.”
The selectboard trimmed the Bristol Police Department budget for fiscal year 2013 over its past few budget sessions, and it now calls an increase in the amount raised from taxes of $303,628 — a 3.2 percent increase from this year— to be raised by taxes.
Total proposed spending is $343,728.
Police district residents will have two opportunities to voice questions and concerns about the police budget: at the selectboard’s Feb. 27 meeting and at 6 p.m. on March 5, before town meeting.
In this year’s Bristol Town Report, voters will also find proposed budget reductions for the Bristol Sewer District, the Bristol Water District and landfill operations. However, a public hearing and a vote on these budgets will not be held until March or April. Those budgets reflect:
•A 7 percent, or $2,504, reduction in the sewer district spending plan of $32,552.
•A 5 percent, or $13,000, decrease in the water district spending plan of $247,700.
•A 1.5 percent, or $2,350, decrease in the landfill operating budget of $155,250.
Voters at town meeting will also be asked to authorize the selectboard to spend $115,000 on a low-profile dump truck and winter equipment to replace the town’s 2003 International dump truck. The 2003 truck would be sold and the funds would be deposited in the town’s capital equipment reserve fund. The new truck would also be purchased from this fund.
Town residents will have an opportunity to ask questions and weigh in on certain line items at town meeting on March 5, and in Town Meeting Day voting — Australian ballot style — on March 6.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]

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