Letter to the Editor
Town Budget: Time for Change
February 3, 2022
From the 2010 to the 2021 Town Budgets the town has a fund balance of over $7 million dollars. (Read that as income above expenses, i.e., surplus.) In the same time period the actual expenditures have gone from $9.5 million to a proposed budget for 2023 of $16.6 million. The taxes on a $280,000 house have increased from $864.64 in 2010 to proposed $1,539.16 in the 2023 budget.
The town has used about $2.4 million of that surplus to fund a rainy-day fund, and has used about $1.5 million for tax reduction over the years, leaving about $3.0 million, including a million dollars from the 2021 budget year.
This excess money is our money; the town officials didn’t ask for it, but they got it and have kept it and continue to raise our taxes to collect more.
The current town budget is too expansive and the following changes should be made.
The town should stop paying committee members a $50.00 stipend per meeting. No other town in Chittenden County does this. Savings to the budget: $30,000.
The town should end its collection of taxes for welfare grants at a 1% of budget level. No other town in the county does this. Savings to the budget: $166,500.
The Police budget should be reduced by the real salary cost of the 4 officers that are authorized but are not currently on staff. A partial effort was made in the budget for this but it was way too little. Saving to the budget: $145,000. This still leaves money for one position to be a health and welfare person. Note that the budgeting of unfilled police positions has gone on for years. And we are also budgeting for overtime for the remaining officers.
Realize that by voting NO to the town budget, a new public hearing would be held to reevaluate it for a revote.
In that process the change proposed in #3 could be implemented, as could an increase to the fund balance used to offset tax revenue from the proposed $300,000 to $700,000. That change would allow the 2023 tax rate to be the same as last year.
We are reaching a point where, as the village separates from the Town, that the Town should reexamine the way it operates and budgets.
Things like items 1 and 2 above, and funding for Green Mountain Transit should be reviewed. The capital plan should be looked at based on an 11,000 person town, not one of 22,000.
The town does not have to have a $325.00 tax increase because of the separation, but it will have to get real about how and what it budgets for and why.