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Bridgewater's Proposed Town Budget Shows Slight Rise

Bridgewater Town and School Meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 5, at 9 a.m., in the basement of Bridgewater Village School.

During last year’s Town Meeting, voters asked not one single question about the town budget before giving it their approval, an unusual phenomenon that may repeat this year: The proposed $708,000 budget is up only 1 percent from the current year, Town Treasurer Victoria Young said.

Town expenses were up, but highway expenses were down, resulting in a near wash, Young said.

In a separate warning article, voters will also be asked to spend $250,000 on a new Highway Department truck, to replace a 2006 Freightliner, keeping up with the town’s usual equipment replacement schedule.

In all, the town is proposing raising $709,000 in taxes, up 1 percent from $700,000 in the current year. (The town operates on a fiscal year calendar.)

“We always do that — we nickle and dime ourselves,” Young said. “The tax rate (has) hardly changed in years. I don’t think there’s anything to question.”

If all spending articles are approved, town officials estimate the town tax rate would increase from 36 cents to 38 cents per $100 of assessed value, Young said. That rate would give the owner of a $250,000 home a $950 town tax bill, $50 more than this year.

Selectwoman Mary Oldenburg is running for a new three-year term, and Selectman John Timken is running for a one-year term. Nominations for elected positions are taken from the floor — it is unclear if Oldeburg and Timken will have any opposition.

The school budget is up 9 percent, to $995,000.

School Board Chairman Owen Astbury said an unexpected enrollment of three or four new students at the Bridgewater Village School hurt finances. The state, upon learning of the enrollment bump, retracted a $30,000 grant intended to alleviate financial strain of lower enrollment, Astbury said.

Additionally, he said, special education and health insurance costs rose, making it more difficult than usual for school directors to keep a lid on per pupil spending, a key figure for state regulators.

“It was a little more work than it has been in the past,” Astbury said. “In a time when you’re trying to get your budget down, they’re taking $30,000 away.”

If the school budget is approved, the school tax rate would rise from $1.51 per $100 of assessed value to $1.66, which would give the owner of a $250,000 home a $4,150 school bill, $375 more than this year.

Astbury is stepping down after 10 years on the board, saying it was time to allow younger families in town to take over.

Astbury said multiple people are considering running for his seat, which comes with a three-year term, but he declined to say who.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.