Ferrisburgh ready to set town budget

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard will meet on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to pin down a budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year to be presented to residents on Town Meeting Day, and board members will be working off a draft that would trigger a 1-cent tax increase.
Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said budgeting for the treasurer position is the only uncertainty remaining in a spending plan that might go up by about 3.6 percent to about $1.73 million.
“We have to fine-tune the budget for that position,” Lawrence said.
The town had hoped to hire before March a 20-hour-a-week assistant treasurer to work with Town Clerk and Treasurer Chet Hawkins and assistant town clerk Pam Cousino, who has been handling the bulk of the treasurer’s duties.
But applicants are few, and on Tuesday Hawkins and Cousino said the position would almost certainly remain vacant through March. Town officials also said they believe someone might run for the treasurer’s position now held by Hawkins, who could also choose to run again.
Officials agree that more help is needed in the town office, specifically with increasingly complex financial issues. If Hawkins remains as treasurer, he has said he could hire an assistant with no residency requirement and retain the power of hiring and firing to make sure the job is done properly and the employee is compatible with the current employees.
But Lawrence said a new treasurer could redefine or even increase the hours for the position, meaning the board might have to increase what is now a $22,000 line item in the budget for an assistant treasurer job.
Because Monday is the Vermont deadline for those interested to file a petition for elective positions, the selectboard on Tuesday will have a better idea on how to handle the treasurer line item, officials said.
As it stands, the board is eyeing an overall spending increase of about $60,500 to about $1,731,000, Cousino said, including charitable contributions of a little more than $30,000.
Within the town’s departments, Administration/General Government shows the greatest increase, from $367,605 to $393,069, a jump largely due to the addition of the assistant treasurer post.
Highway spending is projected to increase by just about $1,000 to $763,228, a figure that includes an additional $20,000 to reflect the higher cost of paving.
Cousino said $12,700 annual lease-to-own payments for highway equipment were moved out of the highway department and into “Debt Service,” a line item that is increasing by about $26,000 total also because of initial payments for the new town shed project that residents approved.
More expensive Addison County Sheriff’s Department and rescue squad contracts are also boosting the Contracts line item by around $9,000 to $265,879. That line item also includes fire protection for the area in Ferrisburgh for which the Vergennes Fire Department is the first responder.
In all, Lawrence describes the budget and its projected 3.6 percent spending increase as fiscally responsible. She contrasted it with the Ferrisburgh Central School spending plan, which calls for an almost 11 percent increase and proposes to add a teacher and a modular classroom.
“The selectboard is very frugal and sensitive to the taxpayers’ needs,” Lawrence said. “Unlike the central school budget. It’s way out of control and not sensitive to the needs of the taxpayers.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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