Ferrisburgh selectboard proposes increase in town spending

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard on Wednesday adopted a roughly $1.935 million town spending proposal for the 2018-2019 fiscal year that would raise spending by about 4.1 percent, assuming voters also back charitable contributions on the ballot.
Selectboard members also adopted a town meeting warning that included two more measures that could boost spending by another 1.8 percent: a proposed $115,000 purchase of a loader over a five-year period, and an increase in the highway department contingency fund by $10,000 to $40,000. Assistant Treasurer Pam Cousino said town officials expect payments on the loader to be about $23,000 a year over the five-year term.
And the other major increases in what is an overall boost of about $77,000 in the proposed budget can also be found in the highway department.
This past March, town residents approved the purchase of a new, fully equipped $190,000 tandem dump truck, and $38,000 appears in the budget adopted on Wednesday as the first payments for that vehicle.
Also, $10,382 shows up to pay for a used heavy-duty pickup truck that was not in the current budget, but should have been. The department bought it two years ago and the town has spent $10,000 on it this year, but it was accidentally omitted from the budget, according to Treasurer Deb Healey, who was elected this past March after the budget was crafted.
In all, if voters approve all spending articles at town meeting on Marc 6, the increases would total roughly $110,000 from this year’s spending plan, officials said.
On Thursday Cousino also noted that in 2017 the selectboard had a fund balance of $66,000 to apply toward keeping a tax increase to a minimum, and town officials said there is not a surplus this year.
However, Cousino said expected growth in the town’s grand list should boost the town’s tax collections this year. Cousino said last year a penny on the tax rate raised almost $53,000, meaning with no growth in this year’s grand list the combination of no surplus and the higher spending could mean a tax increase of about 3.3 cents per $100,000 of the assessed value of real estate.
But Cousino said a bigger grand list should knock the increase down by “a half-cent or more.”
“It always grows some,” Cousino said.
According to preliminary Addison Northwest School District estimates, if the district’s proposed $21.1 million budget is approved, Ferrisburgh might be looking at an 8-cent school tax rate hike.
That means Ferrisburgh residents who pay school taxes solely on the value of their homes and are not eligible for prebates could pay a range of between $105 and $130 more per $100,000 of assessed value if all town and school spending measures are approved in March.
Most Ferrisburgh homeowners, however, pay school taxes based on their incomes and would eventually owe less than the full increase.
Ferrisburgh Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence acknowledged that after a couple years of belt-tightening this proposal was not as lean as some.
“It’s the first year I’d say it’s not a bare-bones budget,” Lawrence said. “It’s probably a necessary budget.”
One line item drew debate: $19,200 to continue to fund a part-time clerical position. Funding for the job was set to run out at the end of June, but the board decided to add it back in to preserve the option of continuing it.
“We did not commit to that position, but we did put some money into the position,” Lawrence said.
At the same time, she said, while the board is happy with the employee, one of the job’s main goals — eliminating a backlog of unrecorded materials, such as mortgages, deeds and easements — has not been met since the worker came on board in mid-October.
Lawrence said officials will have to make a decision as July approaches. 
“The board will have to evaluate the need,” she said. “We haven’t seen the results we had hoped for.”
Other changes in the budget include $4,000 more for employee medical coverage, modest raises for employees (about $2,000 for Road Foreman John Bull and $1,500 for Town Clerk Gloria Warden, for example), $3,900 more for fuel, and $10,000 more for Road Construction/Bridge Repair.
The selectboard also reduced its Law Enforcement line item to $15,000 from $25,000, a change Lawrence said reflected what the town actually has spent in recent years on the services of the Addison County Sheriff’s Department.
In all, Lawrence said, selectboard members “worked long hours” on a budget they believe will serve Ferrisburgh well.
“I would call it a comfortable budget,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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