2017-03-09 / Front Page

Preliminary budget shows tax hike

Nota unveils $23.72 million measure with 10-cent increase
BY TIM RIEL

Although the town councilors will spend most of March trudging through the budget process, a first look at Town Administrator Andy Nota’s proposed spending plan indicates a likely hike in the property tax rate.

The spending package for fiscal year 2017-18, unveiled during the council meeting Monday night, represents a $540,000 increase from this fiscal year. The $23.72 million proposal would raise the tax rate 1 percent from $8.58 to $8.68 per $1,000 valuation. That means the owner of a half-million-dollar home would see an annual tax increase of $50.

The process, however, is in its infancy, Nota cautioned.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “There’s a lot of deliberation to come. I’m sure a lot of changes will be made.”

According to Nota, drafting this budget was more challenging than his previous proposals. The past few years, he said, revenue was strong, expenses were consistent and property values were increasing.

“We were able to easily manage some initiatives that the council and community wanted to address,” Nota said. “That was not the case this year.”

The proposal includes $8.6 million for town expenses and $12.14 million to operate the schools. An early look at the capital improvement plan shows an 8.2 percent decrease to $1.11 million, but debt service is increasing 16 percent to $950,000. The balance of the budget is about $900,000 in projected state aid.

“We are starting to engage some of the larger projects that have been lying dormant,” Nota said. Specifically, the town will begin paying back money it borrowed to build the expansion to the fire station.

The school department’s capital plan also is decreasing roughly 10 percent to $108,000, but its debt service will remain level.

Because of the town’s hefty surplus, Nota has proposed taking $250,000 from the $4.6 million pot, which is $100,000 more than he usually transfers from the fund. Also, he plans to continue his conservative approach by meeting the town’s full pension obligation for the police union and members of the Municipal Employees Retirement System. The school district, which twice has deposited $500,000 into an irrevocable trust for its retirees, is gaining interest in that account. Nota reported that it has more than $1.15 million set aside, which can only be used for pay for other post-employment benefits.

“We are starting to reap the rewards of that trust,” he said.

The net tax levy impact for fiscal 2018 is proposed at $19.25 million. The schools are responsible for 57 percent of that.

Upcoming budget hearings

Capital improvements March 9, 6 p.m.
Operating budget Tuesday, March 21, 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 23, 6 p.m.

School budget Thursday, March 30, 6 p.m.
Expected budget adoption Monday, April 17, 7 p.m.
All meetings at Town Hall.

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