Vote for the budget
The Barre City Budget and Finance Committee was disappointed to see the low turnout for the failed fiscal 2015 general fund budget vote at town meeting, and we encourage all Barre voters to take the time to come and vote May 13.
The budget is the financial plan for meeting the needs of city residents — everything from plowing snow to filling potholes, from fighting fires and keeping the peace, to opening the pool or cooling the BOR. Perhaps we don’t all use each of these services all the time, but they all come together to make a city we can be proud of. The four members of the committee had more than 10 meetings and spent tens, if not hundreds, of hours reviewing and scrutinizing various fiscal 2015 budget proposals, working through eight drafts to put together a plan that enables the city to deliver the services we all ask for at a price we can afford. The City Council further reduced the budget proposal for presentation to the voters.
It is our firm belief that the budget presented to the voters at town meeting was a fiscally responsible plan for achieving the goals of the council over the next 12 months.
At every turn the budget committee has been concerned about the ability of Barre taxpayers to fund the work of the city. We recognize that, although the operating budget increase was as small as we felt we could make it, any increase is too much for some voters.
Given the amount of work that the Budget and Finance Committee did to keep the budget increase as low as possible — and recognizing that voters expect a certain level of service from the city — the committee is recommending that the expenses in the budget remain unchanged.
Fortunately, between when the budget was first proposed and now, we have been able to add some nontax revenue to the budget that we didn’t have in the lead-up to the town meeting vote, and this reduces the amount of money that needs to be raised by taxes.
The Budget and Finance Committee recommended, and the council supported:
1. Reducing voter approved assistance (based on the town meeting vote) to $139,901 (a reduction of $2,500).
2. Increasing cell tower revenue by $14,400 due to the lease signed in late March.
3. Increasing parking ticket revenue to $50,000 per the city clerk (up $10,000 based on actual revenues).
The net change from taking these steps is an increase in revenue of $26,900 — which reduces the municipal tax rate increase from 3.51 percent to 3.15 percent.
The Budget and Finance Committee recognizes that for some people any tax increase is challenging. We also believe that the city’s turnaround in the last few years has some momentum; there are positive changes happening across our city, and they are being noticed. Barre is a fantastic place to live, and the city offers a range of city services that we can be proud of.
Now is not the time to lose the momentum we have by cutting back on the services we provide to city residents. Please vote yes May 13.
The writer is chairman of the Barre City Budget and Finance Committee.
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