$76: Projected Town Tax Increase
11/9/21 and 11/15/21 Town Budget Work Sessions
by Irene Wrenner
November 16, 2021
10 points from the November 9th and 15th Town Budget Work Sessions:
1. The latest projected tax rate increase is 5.4% for Town inside and outside the village residents ($76 per year for a $300K property). Budget refinements continue. This number will likely change before being sent to voters in March.
2. Essex Rescue has increased its funding request to $241,046 from $76,300.
3. The Town needs to replace three buildings: fire station, public works, and pool/community center.
4. The Fire Department has critical needs for more volunteers, a radio upgrade, overnight quarters, and a ladder truck, which aren’t included in the FY23 budget at this point, although the radio upgrade is getting some attention.
5. The Unified Manager continues to promote a local option tax as an alternative revenue source, although the Selectboard appears not to favor it.
6. $30,000 is budgeted for Equity work in FY23. This year’s entire Equity funding was spent in six months.
7. The Police Department has three open officer positions. A fourth vacancy has been converted to an administrative position: Community Affairs Liaison.
8. Changes to the management of the jointly-owned, 100-acre Tree Farm are not anticipated in FY23. This renowned recreational facility is currently run by the not-for-profit Tree Farm Management Group at zero cost to taxpayers. Both the Town and Village have seats on the Tree Farm Management Group board.
9. Committee / commission member stipends — a new feature that begins in January— will cost $34,970.
10. FY21 yielded a surplus of $1,695,492, due to reduced expenses and varied sources of unexpected revenue. These include $72,936 in FEMA grant funds, $112,977 in recording fees, $346,669 in COVID relief funds, and $677,347 in savings from unfilled police positions. This “fund balance” will be allocated by the Selectboard to reduce future taxes and cover unanticipated expenses. The $90,661 allocation toward Merger expenses has been re-directed toward Separation costs.