Charlotte budget comes into focus: Selectboard to hear proposal Monday for $1.4 million library project

By SCOOTER MACMILLAN

The Charlotte Selectboard continued its work on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2019-20 that it will wrap up later this month in preparation for Town Meeting Day March 5.

The discussion of the next year’s spending plan will continue next on Monday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. in Charlotte Town Hall when the board could finalize the details. 

The working proposal is for a budget of $3.23 million, up 2.7 percent over the current 2018-19 fiscal year budget of $3.15 million. Under the working plan, the municipal tax rate would inch up to 20 cents for every $100 of assessed property value, explained Town Administrator Dean Bloch. That would mean a tax bill of $400 for a home valued at $200,000.

Voters last spring approved a tax rate of $0.1995 but the actual rate set in July came in slightly lower at $0.1986, Bloch said.

During Monday’s budget work session, the proposed cemetery maintenance budget of $31,908 sparked discussion. Charlotte Clerk and Treasurer Mary Mead proposed dividing the line item for cemetery maintenance into a maintenance fund and a special fund that would accrue for replacing the cemetery’s fence.

She argued that putting fence money in the maintenance budget is not a good idea because the maintenance budget for this year included money for fence construction and it didn’t happen.

The board approved $10,000 for the maintenance budget and $10,000 for the cemetery reserve fund for the fence, decreasing the overall amount for the cemetery by $11,908.

“Just because I like to stir the pot just a tad,” Mead said, “I would take money out of the Fire and Rescue capital reserve fund.”

She wanted to see the $100,000 in the proposed budget reduced to $50,000 and reduce the bond issue to replace a 2006 model ambulance from $275,000 to $200,000. She said it was recently reported that the University of Vermont recently purchased an ambulance for $200,000 and didn’t see why Charlotte Fire and Rescue needed to spend $75,000 more.

Selectboard member Fritz Tegatz argued that the Fire and Rescue personnel were happy to have visitors come to the station to see what the department needs.

The board voted to add in the $275,000 for the ambulance. Chair Lane Morrison said that the public would have the opportunity to discuss budget details on Town Meeting Day.

“We have trust and confidence in our Fire and Rescue team,” Morrison said. “They came in here and talked to us twice. They came in here last meeting; $275,000 was what they recommended. We have a majority on the board who want to stick with that.”

The board also decided to keep the Fire and Rescue reserve fund at $100,000.

Tegatz explained that UVM had some ambulances that are used for transporting patients from other hospitals or nursing homes that don’t have the equipment needed for 911 calls, which could explain the price discrepancy.

The public will be able to discuss the details in the budget at Town Meeting in March when people can weigh in on items such as the ambulance, Morrison said.

At next Monday’s regular Selectboard meeting, Charlotte Library Director Margaret Woodruff will attend to present a proposal for a $1.4 million addition to the library. She will discuss plans for the library to raise $700,000 for the project and for the town to issue a bond for the other $700,000, Morrison said. The board put $21,000 into the working budget as the first year’s payment on this bond.

Selectboard member Frank Tenney objected to the library’s plans so far because it is a town building. “Everybody seems to be talking about this building like it belongs to the library,” he said. “I haven’t seen enough specifics to see that they’re spending the money wisely.”

The library had an informational presentation for the public scheduled for Tuesday evening at the Charlotte Senior Center this week; another is scheduled for Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Charlotte Grange.

The board decided to delay budgeting for changing over the lights in the Town Hall to LEDs in order to research the cost and see if there are funds available to help offset the cost from Efficiency Vermont or some other agency.

The board also kept $25,000 in the proposed budget for replacing the Town Hall roof with the caveat that the roof won’t be replaced until fiscal year 2020-21. The fund has $25,000 in it already. The board expects it will cost more than $50,000 to replace the roof, Bloch said.

The Selectboard could finish its work on the budget as soon as Monday’s meeting in order for the details to be sent to the printer to be in the town report for Town Meeting day, Bloch said.

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