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Barnard Budget Down, Taxes Likely Up

Barnard Town and School Meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 4 in Town Hall.

Barnard — The municipal spending plan that voters will consider this year has a smaller bottom line, though taxes still are likely to increase.

The proposed $1.56 million town budget is less than the $1.82 million plan voters approved last year, but the amount to be raised by taxes is rising by nearly $140,000, a 16 percent increase.

How can that be? Selectboard Chairman Tom Morse said last year’s budget was inflated by Irene recovery projects.

The higher spending was offset on the revenue side by federal and state funds, so Barnard didn’t have to raise the money through taxes. But now, Barnard officials are expecting to have a deficit related to rebuilding costs from the 2011 storm.

Barnard didn’t get as much federal and state money toward Irene projects as it was hoping, Morse said. Also, it overspent on gravel and other non-Irene items. Barnard officials anticipate the town needs $100,000 to cover the shortfall. That money will come from taxes.

“This is all kind of Irene related,” Morse said. “The reason the (budget) figure last year was so high is because we still had some spending to do.”

If approved, next year’s budget would add roughly 5 cents per $100 of valuation to the municipal tax rate, or $125 on a $250,000 home.

Otherwise, this year’s Town Meeting is shaping up to be a straightforward affair, with no other money articles on the warning.

Spending on the school side is up modestly. The proposed budget of a little under $1.1 million for the K-6 Barnard Academy is a 2.8 percent increase from the current year’s. The additional spending is spread among a number of areas, including $9,500 more for special education expenses and $5,000 more for school administration.

Also, health insurance costs are going up with the plans purchased through the new online health insurance marketplace, VermontHealthConnect.gov, rolled out in October as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Barnard will pay $12,836 more for health insurance, a 17.5 percent increase, than it does currently.

“We’re going into the new health exchange starting with this budget and the pressures there are higher,” said Barnard School Board Chairman David Green.

If approved, the school budget would add 6.7 cents per $100 of valuation cents on the school tax rate, or $167.50 on a $250,000 home.

Approval of the Woodstock Union High School District’s $11.7 million budget would add a little over 3 cents on Barnard’s tax rate, bringing the total estimated homestead tax rate for the 2014-15 school year to $1.73 per $100 of a home’s valuation.

Green’s seat on the School Board and the Selectboard seat held by Rock Webster both have expiring terms.

Jenney Silva will be up for re-election for the School Board seat she filled after Jacqueline French stepped down last year when she moved out of Vermont.

Barnard nominates officers from the floor.

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.