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Bristol selectboard tweaks town tax rate

BRISTOL — Action taken by the Bristol selectboard Monday evening will result in a small increase in the town tax rate — a very small increase.
The selectboard raised the rate by $0.0024, or less than a quarter of a penny. That amounts to $4.80 on a home valued at $200,000.
This was the second time this summer that the selectboard had to revise the tax rate. The original revision last month concerned a pending evaluation by the state on a Bristol property’s taxes, which was not a factor in the most recent revision, Town Clerk Therese Kirby said.
At issue this time was the local agreement rate, a very small component of what goes into the local property tax rate. When a town exempts from taxes some property owned by veterans of the U.S. military, the town must make up what is lost in the education portion of the property tax, and that is the local agreement rate. Kirby explained that the snafu this year happened because an email from state tax officials explaining a change in where the amount exempted must be reported went to the wrong email address, and Bristol town officials never received it.
When the error was finally realized, the town had to go back to the drawing board to factor in those exemptions when figuring the amount that needed to be raised by taxes.
On Monday, the selectboard unanimously approved the re-set of the tax rate. The new rates for Bristol residents are: $2.2250 per $100 of assessment for homeowners outside the police district; $2.1840 for non-resident property owners outside the police district; $2.5142 for homeowners within the police district; and $2.4732 for non-resident property owners within the police district.
Kirby said the latest change in the rate did not delay sending out tax bills, which are slated to be put in the mail Sept. 17. Bristol property taxes are due in two installments — on Nov. 5, 2013, and April 5, 2014.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the Bristol selectboard:
•Discussed changes to town employees’ health insurance through Vermont Health Connect — the health insurance exchange that will begin taking applications in October. Town officials laid out a spreadsheet that compared multiple plans and recommended a Blue Cross Blue Shield “Blue for You” non-standard Gold plan for town employees.
Board members then unanimously accepted a motion that said the town would hold a public discussion concerning an employee health benefit model that would go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. Town Administrator Bill Bryant said the meeting would be held in October, which would give town employees the opportunity to meet with him and suggest feedback or adjustments.
If adopted as recommended, the town would pay 100 percent of the premium for 40-hour-per-week employees and a pro-rated amount for employees who worked between 30 and 40 hours. The town would no longer fund health savings accounts. The town would provide a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) program to reimburse deductible and out-of-pocket expenses between $1,500 and $4,000 for single plans, and between $3,500 and $8,500 for couples, parent/child and family plans. The town would only accept plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield because that insurance company provides HRA program management at no cost to the town or employer.
•Approved a 5K race to benefit the Starksboro preschool. It will take place Sept. 28 in conjunction with the Bristol Harvest Festival.

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