Letter to the editor: Use town surplus to reduce taxes

On March 7, Panton town voters will be presented with a proposed budget that calls for a 1.83 percent increase in the property tax rate. This sounds reasonable until you discover on page 12 of the 2016 audit report (online) that the town has an unassigned surplus of $107,962. The same thing happened last year. We had an unassigned surplus of $66,924 (page 12, 2015 audit) and raised the tax rate 2 percent. These surpluses are in addition to the “rainy day” fund established by the town several years ago.
The town has been accumulating this surplus for several years. The tax rate has been raised three out of the last four years (and five out of the last eight), even though the town had surplus funds available every year. Years ago there was a line item in the revenue section of the budget called “carry forward balance.” It disappeared some time ago. Had we utilized this line item, and used just a portion of the surplus, the tax rate could have been stabilized at pre-2011 rates.
There are two additional money articles on the town meeting warning. Article 5 to transfer $10,856 to the “rainy day” fund and $55,000 to the highway capital equipment fund. That would leave $42,106 left unassigned from the surplus. A transfer of $10,404 from the surplus would eliminate the need for a tax rate increase. The remaining balance of the surplus ($31,702) would be available to reduce the tax rate.
J. Douglas Dows

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