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Higher Budgets, Taxes OK’d in Sharon

Sharon — Voters at Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved $1.3 million in municipal and highway budgets Tuesday that could raise taxes as much as 15 percent during the coming fiscal year.

After an explanation of the spending plans by town officials and limited questions from those attending the annual meeting, 90 voters cast ballots in favor of the budgets and 20 against.

Last year, the Selectboard kept taxes level by using a surplus of $91,983 that had accumulated in the general fund to offset rising expenses. This year that surplus doesn’t exist, Selectwoman Mary Gavin said.

“Very little was increased on this budget. Health insurance and road material are up, but there are decreases in other areas. The biggest thing that we’ve done is increase the amount we’re putting in the reserve fund to buy road equipment in the future,” she said.

Included in the highway budget approved by voters was an additional $50,000 for the reserve fund.

The municipal and highway budgets are going up $49,165, or 4.8 percent, from this year. But without the $91,983 in surplus funds, the effective increase in what is needed from taxes for the coming year is $141,148 or 15.2 percent.

The amount raised by taxes is increasing from $926,840 this year to $1,067,988, and the estimated tax rate is expected to increase by almost 10 cents per $100 of assessed value, to 67.8 cents.

The higher rate means about $224 more a year in town taxes for the owner of a $250,000 home.

Voters also decided to eliminate the town auditors, although two auditor positions were listed on the Australian ballot for write-in candidates.

The town has one auditor, who is supposed to review the town’s finances, but at least two auditors are needed to do the job, Selectman Brad Atwood said.

“We have an independent certified public account who conducts the audit every year, and we can’t seem to find someone who wants to be an auditor. It’s getting in the way of doing business,” he said.

The Selectboard also agreed to look into changing the time and date of Town Meeting next year in hopes of gaining more participation. To make the change, 17 voters would need to sign a petition to bring it before Town Meeting next year.

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