2018-04-05 / News

Tax levy increase close to state’s 4 percent cap

BY TIM RIEL

Heading for the homestretch of budget season, the town councilors will have to keep their eyes on 3.82 percent, which represents the proposed increase to the tax levy for 2018-19.

According to state law, a municipality “may levy a tax in an amount not more than four percent” from its previous fiscal year. While there are exceptions to that ceiling, Town Administrator Andy Nota said he will have contingencies if the council were to make any last-minute surges.

At its April 16 meeting, the council is expected to hear a recommendation from the tax assessor about raising veteran exemptions. If that happens, Nota would like to stay below the cap opposed to dealing with the red tape.

“It just creates a lot of other bells and whistles that have to be addressed,” he said.

Nota presented the second half of his $24.43 million proposed budget last week to the council. The combined measure to operate the schools and town is 3 percent more than 2017-18. To meet the $19.96 million burden from the levy, the tax rate needs to be increased by 29 cents to $8.95 per $1,000 valuation.

During the March 28 workshop, Nota presented the “extremely lean” spending plans for the public works, fire and library departments.

“These three are very stable,” he said.

The library’s proposed budget is $483,495, which represents a 2.2 percent increase. The fire department, including emergency medical services, is up nearly 3 percent to $796,635. The increases are $10,239 and $22,600, respectively.

As for public works, Town Engineer Mike Gray’s department only is asking for a 0.8 percent increase to $1.97 million. Nota commended the large department’s fiscal conservancy.

“Almost all of the increases are contractual,” he said.

Debt service for the upcoming fiscal year is $743,047 in principal payments and $201,475 in interest. That second number represents an 11.5 percent decrease because of the town’s strong bond rating, but overall debt is up 0.2 percent. That includes borrowing for Town Hall, the highway barn, police station and fire station. The Melrose School debt, which will cost $235,200 in the upcoming year, will be retired in 2021 while the $100,000 annual payment from closing the landfill matures in 2024.

The town legally can borrow up to 3 percent of its gross assessed value, which is $2.27 billion. Of that approximately $68 million debt limit, $58.7 million still is available to be borrowed.

“Not that we ever would,” Nota quipped.

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