BARRE – City councilors set a tax rate that will generate a $38,000 cushion during the fiscal year that starts on July 1.
Hoping to make a small down-payment on a $344,000 capital improvement fund deficit reflected in a recently presented audit, councilors heeded the advice of Mayor Lucas Herring and City Manager Steve Mackenzie on Tuesday night and set the municipal portion of the tax rate slightly higher than necessary.
The difference — roughly three-quarters of a penny — will generate $38,000 in revenue, councilors were told would be earmarked to paying off the deficit.
City Clerk Carol Dawes said the rate set by the council — $1.8552-per-$100-assessed-property value — mirrored Mackenzie’s pre-Town Meeting Day projections of a 4.67-cent rate hike to cover the cost of running the city.
However, based on a slightly larger than expected increase in the Grand List that was filed earlier than usual this year, Dawes said that increase exceeded what was actually needed. The council, she said, could have set the municipal portion of the tax rate at $1.8475-per-$100-assessed property value and foregone the additional revenue.
Acting on Herring’s recommendation, councilors never considered that alternative.
“I’m in favor of this,” Herring said after Dawes outlined a plan designed to raise the money needed to finance the day-to-day operation of the city and put a small, but detectable dent in the capital improvement fund deficit.
The tax rate set by the council Tuesday night does not yet reflect the local agreement that covers tax stabilization agreements and veterans’ exemptions — 2.88 cents this year — or the either of the education rates that are set by the state. This year’s homestead education rate in Barre was $1.2698 and the rate for non-residential properties was $1.5658.
Dawes said then new rates would be supplied by the state early next month and included in tax bills that will be mailed before July 15. The first quarterly installment in Barre is due on Aug. 15.
Based on separate council action the city’s new Unified Development Ordinance will have been on the books for a full month by then, capping a public process that required two “first readings,” and several eleventh-hour revisions by the Planning Commission.
Those changes did the trick, as the revised ordinance sailed through back to back public hearings without comment or question was adopted with one dissent Tuesday night. Councilor John Steinman voted against the ordinance.
Currently both the new and old ordinances are in effect, with the city required to apply the one that has stricter standards with respect to specific development proposals. That will change on July 16 when the old ordinances will come off the books for goods leaving the new ones in place.
Among other things, that will allow the installation of a digital sign at Spaulding High School and the construction of “tiny houses” on a vacant Brook Street lot. Neither are allowed under the old ordinance.