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Town Meeting Preview 2015: Waltham

WALTHAM — Waltham residents will gather on Monday to decide from the floor of town meeting financial and other issues and choose town officers, and then will vote on Tuesday on school spending.
At issue beginning at 6 p.m. in Waltham Town Hall on March 2 will be the selectboard’s proposal for $91,387 of general fund administrative spending and $133,825 of road spending.
Both those figures are lower than current levels. The general fund proposal calls for a drop of about $4,500, with town officials attributing much of that to lower anticipated legal fees after resolution of a legal issue.
Road spending is proposed to drop more dramatically, by $47,000, because in 2014 the town paid to pave a portion of Middlebrook Road without state support and no such project is proposed for 2015.
As for elective office, Town Clerk Mary Ann Castimore and Treasurer Lucille Evarts have said they would like to be nominated to serve another year, and Castimore said Selectman Andrew Martin, who was appointed to replace Harold Francis last fall, would like to serve another three years. There will be no school board elections in Waltham.
Other decisions are on the Town Meeting Day agenda, including a discussion on when town property taxes are due. Currently, town statute sets the deadline as the first Friday in November. Castimore said some have said a fixed date, such as Nov. 1, might be simpler and avoid confusion.
Residents will also be asked to use a projected carryover of $28,740 to reduce taxes for the current year, and whether to continue to send $9,205 to support the Bixby Library, with that amount based on a per capita rate similar to that asked from other towns the library serves. Other charitable requests total $3,459.
Another question also faces residents on Monday. Officials are asking them to approve a switch to a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year budget, effective for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.
Evarts provided in the town report a list of pros and cons for the switch that will be available at the meeting. Pros including synching town and school fiscal years, eliminating the need to borrow money for operating expenses, and allowing more time for auditors to perform their work. Cons include the difficulty of making the transition, including making fiscal planning more challenging.
On Tuesday, March 3, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., residents will weigh in on Vergennes Union High School and Vergennes Union Elementary School spending.
The VUHS board adopted a roughly $10.47 million budget that administrators said will begin to dig VUHS out of its deep financial hole and would better reflect the cost of operating the school after years of underfunded spending.
To reach those goals, the budget calls for an 11 percent spending increase of about $1 million over the VUHS budget Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voters approved this past spring.
Vergennes, Panton and Waltham will be asked to approve a $4.7 million Vergennes Union Elementary School budget that would increase spending by about 7.7 percent over the current level of about $4.36 million.
According to ANwSU estimates, approval of those budgets and separate articles for capital funds would boost Waltham’s school tax rate from the current level of $1.6011 to $1.6628.
That increase assumes and includes a 2-cent hike in the statewide education tax rate.
The estimated Waltham increase of 6.2 cents would translate to $62 per $100,000 of assessed value.
Most homeowners will receive prebates following tax payments to soften the initial increase.
About two-thirds of Addison County households are eligible for property tax relief under the state’s education financing laws. Most prebates for households earning under $90,000 are more than $1,000, often much higher.
In Waltham, some of that school tax increase should also be offset by lower town spending. 

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