Bristol to vote on 1.5 percent town spending increase

BRISTOL — At the annual town meeting next month, Bristol voters will be asked to approve a fiscal year 2019 municipal spending plan that represents an increase of 1.5 percent to $2,609,402, and would require a projected increase of 2.7 percent in the municipal tax rate.
While the budget warned by the selectboard would make small changes in the big-ticket highway and general fund spending items, the biggest shifts would be in spending on the recreation department (down 10.3 percent) and voter appropriations (up 11.7 percent).
If approved as warned, Bristol taxpayers should expect would see their municipal tax rate increase 2.7 percent. A home valued at $250,000 would see a $51.01 increase in annual municipal taxes.
But these numbers are projections only. Town Administrator Valerie Capels noted that since Bristol is in the midst of a townwide property reappraisal, and the Bristol grand list will change before taxes are levied this summer. The town expects to finish its reappraisal of properties by April 1.
Bristol residents will vote on town spending at the annual meeting, slated for Monday, March 5, at Holley Hall beginning at 7 p.m.
The budget for the Bristol Recreation Department, if approved, would decrease spending by $25,802, or 10.3 percent, to $224,393 for the fiscal year that begins July 1. After a number of retirements, including that of director Darla Senecal, the selectboard reduced the staff budget by $20,000 and now envisions a department with only three staff, according to Capels. Proposed spending for the department is the lowest in seven years.
However, a number of voted appropriations account for the greatest increases in the budget.
A $35,000 Sidewalk Fund (Article 11) would replace a former $17,000 line item in the Highway Department budget, Capels said, an $18,000 increase.
Anticipating a significant increase in mowing costs, the Bristol Cemetery Association has asked that its budget be increased from $7,000 to $22,000.
Article 13 introduces a new voted appropriation: $2,100 for the Charter House Coalition to provide emergency winter shelter and meals for those in need.
The Lawrence Memorial Library budget would increase by 2 percent, or about $2,800, to $137,872.
Another new item in the budget would appropriate a specific amount, $70,000, for the Fire Vehicle Capital Reserve Fund, instead of continuing with the current two-cent levy, which according to Capels did not produce enough revenue to meet the projected schedule.
“A lump sum allocation is more predictable and is the more traditional approach,” she said.
Article 8 of the warning details the Town Reserve Fund requests of $310,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.
The General Fund budget is set to decrease by $6,662, or 0.71 percent, to $926,739.
The selectboard increased its request for highway spending by $18, to $775,541. Road Foreman Peter Bouvier, who will retire on April 13, 2018, “made a conscious effort to level fund as much as possible,” Capels explained. The budget no longer includes the Sidewalk Capital Reserve Fund, which has been introduced this year as a Voted Appropriation.
Separately, those Bristol residents who live in the Bristol Police District, which encompasses much of the village, will also vote on a police department spending plan in Australian ballot voting on Tuesday, March 6.
If approved, spending on the Bristol police would fall $1,588, of 0.34 percent, from the current year to $461,374.
Christopher Ross is at [email protected].

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