Addison taxes seen dropping

ADDISON — As town budget crafting season has wrapped up, the Addison selectboard has proposed to spend more in the 2012-2013 fiscal year than its members had budgeted in the current fiscal year — but this year the town has managed to save almost $75,000 that the board is planning to use to lower the town’s tax rate next year.
Meanwhile, in Panton, the selectboard’s proposed budget is lower on its face value, but if residents back four proposed capital funds, net spending could rise slightly in the upcoming fiscal year.
The formula is simplest in the other small Addison Northwest Supervisory Union town. In Waltham, spending is almost, but not quite, level — it will drop a bit if voters on Town Meeting Day approve the selectboard’s spending plan.
According to ANwSU officials’ preliminary estimates, none of the towns’ school tax rates should rise, although school officials caution legislators could change course on the state’s contribution to education and thus affect the local numbers this winter.
In Addison, if both the proposed Vergennes Union High School and Addison Central School budgets pass in March, the ANwSU preliminary estimates call for a roughly seven-cent drop in the school tax rate.
In both Panton and Waltham, if the VUHS and Vergennes Union Elementary School budgets pass in March, officials project a school-tax rate drop of less than a penny.
The Ferrisburgh selectboard adopted a $1.619 million spending proposal on Jan. 24 that the Independent detailed on Jan. 26. Vergennes aldermen set the city budget in June.
If Addison voters back the town office and highway budgets and all proposed charitable contributions ($25,010) in March, town spending would hit $1,024,563, compared to the current charities-included figure of $980,596.
The Addison selectboard is proposing a budget, not including voter support for charities, of $999,553.
That figure includes $357,967 for the general fund budget and $641,586 for road spending.
The combined figure represents an increase of almost $60,000 over the current budget of $939,418 (not including charities), but the comparison is not exactly apples-to-apples.
To start with, residents voted at Town Meeting Day 2011 to move funding for the Bixby Memorial Library from the voter-approved charitable column into the town budget. Current town spending includes $18,388 that voters approved for the Bixby a year ago; in the budget for the coming fiscal year, the selectboard included $18,728 for the library. Thus, what appears to be an increase is really a cost shift, officials said.
Secondly, Town Clerk Jane Grace recently informed the selectboard she would step down at the end of 2012. The board decided to include funds to hire and train a second assistant in the town office to make sure the town would be as prepared as possible for Grace’s departure after 40 years on the job.
Selectboard chairman Jeff Kauffman said that line item would go back down next year, while other than that and the Bixby line item this year everything is “pretty steady across the board.”
Both those increases are reflected in the general fund budget, which as proposed is about $52,000 higher. The proposed road budget would rise by about $8,000.
But Kauffman said careful fiscal management this year has allowed the board to project the $75,000 carryover.
“It’s just budget items that weren’t needed or things that came in below (expected) costs,” he said.
Kauffman credited Grace and road foreman Bryan Nolan with “being able to spend money wisely” in helping create the carryover, which he and Grace said would result in a decrease in Addison’s municipal rate to go along with the projected drop in the school portion of the town tax rate.
In 2011, by the time a $26,000 special appropriation dedicated to fixing Panton Town Hall’s roof was added into spending approved on Town Meeting Day, residents had OK’d $640,817 of spending for 2012-2013.
As well as the $579,410 general fund budget, spending also included $16,407 of charitable contributions, $17,000 in two highway funds, and $2,000 in a fund to support digitization of town records.
If Panton residents back all the financial measures on Town Meeting Day this March, town spending will add up to $645,692, according to Panton town treasurer M’Lissa Dayton. That increase, if approved, would translate to about 0.76 percent.
Panton selectboard chairman John Viskup said the board was pleased to hold the budget line overall.
“We kept it pretty close to last year. We’re pretty happy with it,” Viskup said.
There are some changes within the numbers. Money for the Bixby Library is no longer a voter-approved charitable contribution, but is in the town budget. Dayton said that move added $9,248 to the general fund bottom line while making the contributions appear smaller.
Also up for residents’ consideration will be four funds:
•  $15,000 for town hall restoration, a new fund this year.
•  $20,000 for the Highway Capital Equipment Fund, a $5,000 increase from 2011.
•  $2,000 for tires for the town’s grader, the same as in 2011.
•  $2,000 for records digitization, the same as in 2011.
Viskup said the selectboard wants to plan for the town’s future with these proposals.
“We’re trying to establish funds for capital investment,” he said.
ANwSU’s early estimate calls for a decrease of about a half-cent in Panton if both union school budgets pass. With only the tiny increase in town spending, the overall tax rate could drop by a fraction of a cent.
 Dayton also noted that while taxes might go down slightly or be stable, the tax rate might not be directly comparable: Panton is undergoing a town-wide real estate reappraisal, and a new grand list will be used to calculate the town’s tax rate.
Waltham is looking at a status quo end result both in its budgeting and its tax rate.
The selectboard is proposing for the 2012-2013 fiscal year a $72,547 general fund budget and $152,800 of road spending for a total of $225,347, including voter-approved charitable contributions.
In 2011 residents backed selectmen’s proposal for a $226,842 budget, including $71,042 for town office spending and $155,800 for roads; that budget was virtually unchanged from the year before.
The only question, said Selectman Harold Francis, is whether the town will get a grant to pave the length of Green Street. If not, the town will devote its paving line item to chip-sealing portions of Plank Road.
ANwSU’s early estimate calls for a decrease of about three-quarters of a cent in Waltham if both union school budgets pass; thus, it looks like with slightly lower town spending the overall tax rate could drop by that amount or a fraction more.

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