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Sharon Voters To Decide on Higher Taxes

Rise in School Budget Includes Money for New Heating System

The Sharon School District Meeting is Monday, March 3, at 7 p.m. at the Sharon Elementary School to act on warning articles and elect school officers. Sharon Town Meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 4, at the elementary school to act on warning articles. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for voting by Australian ballot to elect town officers.

Sharon — Taxes will be going up in Sharon if voters approve both the proposed town and school budgets.

Because of a surplus last year, town and highway taxes had remained level, but this year, the surplus is gone, and the proposed budget of almost $1.3 million represents a potential 15.2 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxes.

Voters at the school district meeting also are being asked to approve a 3.4 percent tax hike as well as a new $175,000 heating system for the elementary school. However, the new system won’t require higher taxes and is expected to cut costs.

District school officials are proposing a wood-pellet boiler and heating system that would replace the existing system. Earlier this month during sub-zero temperatures, the oil-fired boiler failed in the 25-year-old facility, causing inside temperatures to plunge, pipes to break and classes to be canceled for the preK-6 school’s 150 pupils.

“It’s happened several times. It cost us money every time, and we have to close the school,” School Board Chairman Donald Shaw said. “We need a new boiler.”

The district is proposing financing the new efficient heating system with a 10-year loan, Shaw said.

Changing to wood pellets is not only better for the environment, but it also will save an estimated $9,000 in fuel costs the first year and more than $375,000 in operating costs over 30 years including the cost of financing, an engineering report says.

During the next few years, the district is planning to add another 2,000 square feet to the school to keep up with growth, and the new boiler would be able to handle the heat for the expansion.

Overall school spending is proposed to increase from $3.9 million to just under $4.1 million or almost $151,000 for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1. The spending increase will mean an estimated 5 cents hike in the tax rate per $100 of valuation. That equates to about $125 per year for a residence assessed at $250,000 for property owners who don’t qualify for the state’s income sensitivity program.

Although the proposed school budget contains small increases in a number of areas, the largest spike is the anticipated cost of secondary education, which is up more than $47,000, mostly for tuition for private schools.

“We don’t have any control over secondary education costs,” Shaw said.

The proposed $1.3 million town and highway budgets are up $77,185 over last year, but because last year’s spending was aided by the almost $92,000 budget surplus that is no longer available, taxes would go up by $141,148 if the budget is approved. Of that increase, the proposed town budget will require another $89,053 in taxes and the highway department $52,095 more.

The higher budget will push the ta x rate from 58 cents per $100 of assessed value to an estimated 67.8 cents for an increase of nearly 10 cents. For the owner of a $250,000 home, the increase means about $224 more a year in town taxes.

“We held the line the best we could. It’s pretty bare bones, but taxes are going up , Selectboard Chairman Paul Haskell said, noting that highway materials and insurance costs accounted for most of the increases.

During the last year, Sharon has improved its fiscal management practices and hired Deb Jones as the finance manager, which will help keep tax increases down in the future, Haskell said.

In addition, the town also is budgeting for a highway reserve fund that will provide the funds when equipment needs to be replaced, he said.

There are no contested races for either town or school positions, but the Selectboard seat being vacated by Brad Atwood is on the ballot for a potential write-in candidate, Haskell said.

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com.