Little Change in Windsor Budgets

Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, February 23, 2017

A town and school informational meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 6 at 7 p.m. in the Lois White Auditorium of Windsor High School. Voting by Australian ballot on the town and school budgets and other appropriations is Tuesday, March 7 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Windsor Municipal Building on Union Street.

Windsor — The town and school warnings for Windsor this year contain no significant budget increases or spending proposals and, if approved, would have a nearly negligible effect on the homestead tax rate.

The town’s proposed budget of $4.87 million is 4 percent, or $195,000, more than this year, and additional warrant articles of $136,000 for the library and agencies, including Historic Homes of Runnemede and Visiting Nurses for Vermont and New Hampshire, are unchanged from current levels. The total proposed spending is a shade under $5 million.

The municipal proposal is essentially unchanged from what Town Manager Tom Marsh presented last month to the Selectboard. It includes $50,000 for capital spending and increases in the police and fire budgets to cover additional salaries and debt service.

The fire department’s proposed full-time and overtime line item increases of roughly $55,000 are offset by a $58,000 reduction for part-time, Marsh said, because some part-time firefighters were logging enough hours to require benefits. Instead, they decided to hire two full-time firefighters.

The police budget is up $68,000, or 7.6 percent, mostly for wages and overtime.

Part-time is down $7,400. Economic development for the Windsor Improvement Corporation is up $14,000 to $90,000, in response to a town survey in which people supported pursuing economic development efforts.

On the revenue side, Marsh said, the town will see $30,000 more from the state for payment in lieu of taxes on state-owned land in town. Police department revenue is up about $36,000 from reimbursement of the school resource officer and the department’s new fingerprinting service and about $107,000 more will come from taxes.

Marsh said the town, over the last few years, has been able to stabilize personnel and replace equipment to provide the services needed without major tax increases.

“We have a plan to replace smaller vehicles now and staffing is where it needs to be, so we will be looking at budgets like this for the foreseeable future,” Marsh said.

If town spending is approved, Marsh projects an increase in the municipal tax rate of about 4 and half cents per $100 of a property’s assessed valuation.

The school budget of $8.4 million is down $1.46 million from this year, primarily because of how the supervisory union calculates special education assessments for each of its four school districts.

Windsor School Board Chairwoman Amy McMullen said the supervisory union assesses districts based on an equalized per pupil basis instead of on average daily enrollment, which cuts some of Windsor’s costs.

Furthermore, districts are assessed the net amount after expenses and corresponding reimbursements from non-tax sources are deducted from the SU’s budget. For Windsor, the SU assessments for special education decreased $1.25 million.

McMullen said another factor in the projected tax rate is a surplus of $400,000 at the end of the June 30, 2016 fiscal year — mostly from additional tuition revenue — and some of that is being applied to offset taxes. Another $124,000 is in a warning article asking voters to put it in the district’s capital reserve fund for maintenance of the school and grounds.

Contributing to an increase in wages of $107,000 is a plan to hire someone to implement the flexible pathways program passed by the state Legislature in 2013 under Act 77. The law requires each school district to put in place individual learning plans for all students as they move through their secondary education.

The homestead education tax rate is projected to decrease 5.7 cents if the budget is approved.

If all proposed spending on both the town and school warnings is approved at the March 7 vote, the homestead tax rate is projected to decrease a little more than a penny to a little less than $2.66 per $100 of assessed valuation. That equals $4,000 in taxes on a property assessed at $150,000.

There are no contested races for either Selectboard or School Board.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com