Barre Town budget proposal includes two additions
BARRE TOWN — The town’s budget committee wrapped up its annual deliberations this week, approving a municipal spending plan that would expand the Police Department, level fund the library and cut funding for an organization that promotes economic development.
According to Town Manager Carl Rogers, those three issues dominated discussion during the committee’s final meeting. When it was over, Rogers said, the committee, which held back-to-back meetings Monday and Tuesday, adopted the general and highway fund budgets that town voters will be asked to approve May 14.
Rogers said the general fund budget was the focus of Tuesday’s session. The proposal endorsed by the committee calls for spending $3,224,851 during the fiscal year that starts July 1. That’s an increase of $153,900, or roughly 5 percent, over the budget that voters approved a year ago.
Though Rogers said the committee made modest modifications to the budget he recommended, it did approve “two big additions.”
One was $40,000 to hire an additional full-time police officer, and the other $25,000 to convert the furnace at the East Barre Fire Station from oil to propane. The latter cost would include the removal of an underground oil tank.
Rogers said $40,000 would cover the cost of making a midyear hire, and, after some discussion, the proposal to hire an eighth officer was approved by a vote of 7-2.
Though the numbers involved were much smaller, Rogers said the votes to level fund the Aldrich Public Library for a fifth straight year and reduce funding for Barre Area Development Corp. were even closer.
Responding to the library’s request for a more substantial increase, Rogers recommended a 3 percent bump in the town’s $103,000 contribution, even as some committee members suggested cuts in excess of $20,000.
Those proposed cuts were never seriously considered Tuesday night, though a motion to support Rogers’ recommendation for a 3 percent increase was rejected 6-3. The committee ultimately voted 6-3 to level fund the library.
According to Rogers, the committee voted 5-4 to trim $3,220 from the $52,220 he suggested as the town’s contribution to Barre Area Development Corp. Like the local library, BADC is jointly supported by Barre and Barre Town.
The committee also finalized the highway fund budget this week. The final figure, according to Rogers, is $2,535,530 — a reduction of $70,810, or 2.7 percent, from the budget voters approved last year.
Rogers said the committee’s decision to use a less expensive road resurfacing technique than he recommended saved more than $100,000. Other notable adjustments included a decision to skip the proposed purchase of two portable speed bumps for $8,000 and to trim 100 tons from the salt budget for a savings of roughly $6,000.
According to Rogers’ calculations, approval of the proposed general fund budget would trigger a 2.5-cent increase in the municipal portion of the tax rate, while the highway fund budget would allow for a 1.5-cent reduction. However, he said, the projected budget-related rate increase of 1 cent could double due to a decision a year ago to use $60,000 in surplus funds to reduce the tax rate then.
Rogers said the tax projections don’t reflect the anticipated loss of revenue associated with a newly settled tax appeal with Rock of Ages Corp.
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