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Middlebury selectboard pares down its town spending request

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Jan. 21 will take public feedback on a proposed 2014-2015 general fund budget of $9,154,323, requiring an anticipated property tax levy of $6,526,393.
The municipal budget, if endorsed by the selectboard and passed by voters at their March 3 town meeting, would account for a 1.85-cent boost in Middlebury’s municipal tax rate, which currently stands at approximately 91 cents per $100 in property value.
But other financial commitments could raise the total municipal rate by a total of 3.86 cents, to a total of 94.92 cents per $100 in property value. Those commitments include 2 cents to help fund Middlebury’s fire equipment fund and a penny to help fund the newly created business development fund.
It also includes the potential for an additional penny to finance a proposed first-year debt service for several bonds that would pay for:
•  A new municipal building and recreation center (0.73 cents).
•  Repairs to the Ilsley Library roof (0.05 cents).
•  A liner for the town swimming pool (0.02 cents).
•  The town’s share for a new tunnel to replace the Merchants Row and Main Street overpasses (0.18 cents).
Those bond proposals will be fielded on Town Meeting Day, while the municipal budget will be decided at the annual meeting on March 3.
Officials noted the latest draft budget is $79,476 leaner than the version that went before the selectboard on Dec. 17. Department heads were able to make such adjustments as:
•  Budgeting $45,000 for upcoming culvert repairs to Cady Road through the town’s highway bond, as opposed to through the regular budget.
•  Factoring in an anticipated $10,000 reduction in the county tax (from $56,500 to $46,500).
•  Accounting for an expected reduced outlay of $5,000 for property and casualty insurance.
•  A reduction of $5,000 in recreation parks maintenance.
•  A series of small cuts to various recreation, accounting, library, public works and police line items, amounting to around $25,000.
The proposed budget reflects, among other things, an increase of 2 percent in cost of living for wages for municipal employees, as well an increase of $56,600 associated with employee benefits.
The Middlebury selectboard will hold the Jan. 21 meeting at 7 p.m. in the municipal building conference room.
In other action at its Tuesday, Jan. 14, meeting, the Middlebury selectboard:
•  Endorsed a grant agreement of $330,000 through the Vermont Agency of Transportation to finance 1,200 linear feet of sidewalk on Exchange Street extending from Elm Street to the Elderly Services Inc. entrance and from Elderly Services to MacIntyre Services. The grant will require a local, 10-percent match of $33,000.
•  Nominated Chris Zeoli to serve as the town’s tree warden.
•  Received an update from Middlebury Business Development Director Jamie Gaucher on various local business ventures he is trying to facilitate. Those ventures include a potential air ambulance company and an ongoing effort to get Vermont Livestock set up in space in Middlebury’s industrial park.
•  Endorsed a petitioned request from Ashar Nelson and Amy Sheldon, and Raymond and Cornelia Grant, to exclude their respective properties from the East Middlebury Fire District No. 1.
•  Reviewed a revised policy governing annual town meeting-related financial requests made by health and human services agencies. That proposed policy — patterned after similar guidelines culled from other communities — would call for receiving agencies to (among other things) have their requests reauthorized at town meeting on a rotating, five-year basis.
•  Continued their review of an updated conflict-of-interest policy. The board has sought to update the town’s current policy in light of recent citizen complaints.
•  Agreed to convene a site visit and review of a proposal to discontinue what is being called “Old Middle Road” to facilitate development of a 33.2-acre building lot that is part of a planned unit development owned by Middle Road Ventures.
•  Reviewed a draft 2014 Town Meeting Day warning.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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