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Sharon Residents to Vote on 22% Increase in Highway Budget

Sharon Town Meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 5, at the Sharon Elementary School to act on warning articles. Polls will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Australian ballot voting on town and school officers. The Sharon Town School District Meeting is Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. to act on warning articles.

Sharon — Although the both the proposed town and highway budgets are substantially higher, taxpayers may benefit from a recently discovered budget surplus and avoid much of a tax increase.

The only question mark in the fiscal year 2013 town financing is the federal reimbursements pending for Sharon taxpayers’ expenses for making Tropical Storm Irene repairs, said Selectboard Chairman Brad Atwood.

Although Sharon documented all its work under federal guidelines on bridge, road and culvert repairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to fully reimburse the town for the work, Atwood said. The town has spent about $200,000 more than it has been reimbursed following the 2011 storm.

Sharon, along with other neighboring towns, is negotiating with FEMA, and Atwood said he’s optimistic that the matter will be resolved.

The proposed town budget for the coming fiscal year is up 11 percent or $119,035 from $1,043,440 to $1,162,475, and the proposed highway budget is increasing $109,745 or 22 percent from $495,880 to $606,625.

The road crews have completed most of the major repair projects, except for a small bridge on Quimby Mountain Road, and will focus on preventive road maintenance in the coming year, Atwood said.

On the school side, the proposed budget for funding and expenses of the town’s prekindergarten through sixth-grade school is increasing 10.7 percent, but the tax rate is only going up one penny per $100 of valuation, said Orange-Windsor Supervisory Union Business Manager Donna Benoit.

“Sharon benefitted from having more students and putting their pre-school costs in the budget last year, so it had little impact this year. The Common Level of Appraisal also was up and that helped,” she said.

The common level of appraisal is a state formula intended to ensure that each town contributes its fair share of school taxes to the Vermont Education Fund. If assessed values in a town drop significantly below fair market values, the CLA adjusts the locally set tax rate upward. It can also push the tax rate lower if property values fall significantly below town assessments.

There also is a warning article that if approved by voters would add another 2 cents to the school budget. The article is seeking $52,000 for increased school security. The measure would include a security officer to be located at the school and to patrol around the grounds of the school and town offices. The security measures at the school also would be beefed up, Benoit said.

The Royalton Police Department covers Sharon, but would not be interested in staffing the school position, according to the Royalton Selectboard minutes of the Jan. 22 meeting.

If the security measure is approved, it would increase school taxes by about $50 a year for a home assessed at $250,000.

Without the security measure, the proposed school budget is increasing $379,461, or 10.7 percent, from $3.5 million to $3.9 million.

The additional penny needed to fund the proposed school budget would bring the tax rate from $1.44 per $100 of assessed value to $1.45 and means an additional $25 added to the annual tax bill of a $250,000 home.

There are no contested races for either the school or town offices.

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.