Bristol board backs plan with 1 percent rise in town spending

BRISTOL — Last year at town meeting, Bristol voters said yes to an almost 10 percent hike in overall spending — largely to cover bond payments for the new fire station and South Street Bridge.
On Monday, the Bristol selectboard chose to offer voters a 2017-2018 plan calling for a 1.06 percent spending increase to $2,506,949.
The proposed amount to be raised by taxes is $2,139,887, a 1.07 percent increase over the $2,117,215 approved for 2016-2017.
Town Administrator Therese Kirby said that town officials knew last year was exceptional.
“The selectboard and myself as taxpayers understand that last year was a large increase, and we were overwhelmed with the public support of the new fire facility and the support of the budget overall,” she said on Wednesday. “So this year it was certainly a goal of all the department heads, myself and the selectboard to really come in as close to level funded as we could.”
Of the four major categories in the town budget — general operating fund, highway department, recreation department, and voted appropriations — the greatest decrease comes in the recreation department.
Recreation spending for 2017-2018 is budgeted at $250,195, a 1.79 percent decrease of about $4,700.
Overall operating costs for the department are expected to hold relatively steady at $146,243, a less than 1 percent increase. Within those overall operating costs are projected savings in health insurance and custodial costs.
Expenses at the Bristol Hub Teen Center and Skate Park are proposed to approach 6 percent lower, at $80,527. One large shift, Kirby said, was in changing the director position from a year-round to a school-year-only position.
This year the director’s position is budgeted at $31,992; for 2017-2018, the proposed salary is budgeted at $21,312, a savings of $10,680.
Kirby said that the teen center is “just not being utilized as much by teens in the summer. So the rec department is still going to run programming out of there, and the skate park will still be open, and they will still run some teen programming. But we’re going to be running other camps out of that space. So that’s a big savings in that budget.”
Health insurance costs for Hub workers are budgeted $8,084 higher, at $14,869 (an increase of 119 percent).
General fund expenditures are proposed at $938,607, a 0.55 percent decrease from the current budget.
The largest single decrease in general fund items came in the bond payment on the fire station.
“The bond payment is less than we had originally thought it would be,” said Kirby.
Payment on the fire station bond is still a large ticket item, but at $143,450 is about $34,000 less than was budgeted for in 2016-2017.
Overall, the fire Department budget is $22,131 less than last year, a decrease of 6 percent.
Small areas of savings across the general operating fund included in elections, and workers’ compensation, which is 20-30 percent lower for some town employees in the proposed budget.
Increases across the general fund include such items as mowing of the town parks, health insurance for some town workers, and property insurance on the new fire station.
Highway expenditures are proposed at $775,523 for 2017-2018, a 3 percent increase over current spending. Broken down by major subcategories, costs are down for equipment and up for personnel and insurance, garage and materials and services.
This year’s equipment budget is proposed at $98,600, about $4,000 (or 3.9 percent) less than the current year.
The largest increases are in personnel and insurance, which overall is up by 5 percent to $422,653. Larger ticket items include increases in expenses for health insurance, workers’ compensation and uniforms.
At $179,000, total materials and services are projected to cost $4,000 more than currently budgeted. Kirby pointed out a number of items where the selectboard needed to increase expenses including tree work, sidewalks, and signs, in order to meet new state standards for larger road signs.
Voted appropriations are proposed at $547,829, a 1.06 percent increase over 2016-2017.
Some of the largest-ticket items in this category are payments for the town’s capital funds for fire equipment, highway equipment, buildings, roads, conservation and technology, totaling $300,000.
Lawrence Memorial Library is asking for $135,073, an increase of $3,352 (2.54 percent); Addison County Transit Resources is asking for $11,306, an increase of $600 (5.6 percent); and the Bristol Rescue Squad is asking for $1,500 over last year for a total of $13,500.
All other voted requests are identical to the amounts approved this past March.
Bristol town meeting will be held Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at Holley Hall. Voting by Australian ballot will be on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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