Archive - Jun 12, 2008
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen on Tuesday looked at a first draft of a 2008-2009 municipal budget that could hike city spending by $156,000, or almost 10 percent, to about $1.78 million.
But despite that apparently dramatic increase, City Manager Renny Perry told aldermen that a jump in the municipal portion of the Vergennes tax rate was not a sure thing.
Perry said he was projecting a budget surplus of roughly $40,000 from the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. And he said an increase in the amount of taxable property in Vergennes — including VELCO’s new substation — could boost revenue to cover the increased costs.
“It looks like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But … it’s too early to predict what our revenue situation is going to be,” said Perry, adding, “There’s a whole bunch of factors that will determine what effect this will have on the tax rate, if any.”
Perry is concerned about how soon the substation will get on the tax rolls, however: He said VELCO missed an April deadline for providing an estimate of its taxable value to the Vermont Public Service Board, and he hopes that there isn’t a “loophole” that will allow the power transmission firm to escape taxation for an unfinished project.
If Perry’s guess on the surplus is accurate and the city’s grand list grows enough, the city’s tax rate could even remain level this year. According to late-winter Addison Northwest Supervisory Union estimates, the school tax portion of the city tax rate could drop by almost a penny. ANwSU business manager Donna Corcoran said on Wednesday that nothing had changed since then to move that estimate.
Increases in the draft city budget were across the board, and were concentrated in unsurprising areas, notably fuel and insurance costs.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen are considering raising municipal water rates for the first time since 2001, in an effort to meet rising operating costs and debt service on water system upgrades.
But some of the community’s largest water users are seeking to turn the tide on talk of a proposed rate hike — which could represent about a 12 percent increase — that they said would only add to the already high costs of doing business in Middlebury.
“Manufacturing is getting harder to harder to do in Middlebury,” Otter Creek Brewing General Manager Gail Daha said at a selectboard meeting on Tuesday of rising expenses in Middlebury. “We’ve seen increases across the board, and there is a tipping point.”
Otter Creek Brewing and Agri-Mark/Cabot are two of the largest consumers of Middlebury municipal water and would be among the hardest hit in the event of a rate increase. But town officials said they must consider a rate hike in light of projections that Middlebury’s water fund will end this fiscal year in the red. Assistant Town Manager Joseph Colangelo is recommending that $40,000 be applied from the water department’s fund balance to wipe away this year’s deficit.
But future deficits appear unavoidable unless selectmen raise current water rates and/or continue to patch annual shortfalls using money from the water department’s fund balance, which now stands at around $400,000. Town officials are advising that selectmen not regularly tap the fund balance, seen as a valuable reserve for emergencies.
Middlebury’s current water rate stands at $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. That rate will need to be bumped to $2.92 per 1,000 gallons — a 12.3 percent hike — in order to avoid water fund deficits in future years, according to Colangelo.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Sixteen months after buying the former Specialty Filaments plant out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Thomas Monahan Co. has resurrected the once-mighty bristle manufacturer and turned it into a productive business that continues to look for workers.
Now operating as “Monahan Filaments,” the company has a workforce of more than 140 workers, a more diverse product line and a new business plan that calls for exporting its wares to the same foreign markets that had undercut Specialty Filaments only a few years ago.
“The ground is always shifting, unfortunately,” said Jon Monahan, president of Monahan Filaments. “But we feel we understand the market well enough after a year that we are much more confident about where we need to take the company.”
It was in January of 2007 that Specialty Filaments filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following a steady decline in business brought on, in large part, by aggressive competition from overseas manufacturers. The sudden closure left 175 employees — most of them Addison County residents — out of work.
Thankfully, the plant’s shutdown proved to be only temporary.
The Thomas Monahan Co. (TMC) of Arcola, Ill., submitted to the bankruptcy court the lone, successful bid of $3.125 million for the Specialty Filaments business and property at 3046 Case St. in Middlebury.
Monahan officials have spent the past year sizing up their new acquisition, which now manufactures around 25 percent of Thomas Monahan Co.’s products: bristles for household, janitorial and industrial brushes.
While Monahan doesn’t foresee the Middlebury plant getting back to 175 workers, he does believe the business is on a path to stability.