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Hartland to Face Tax Increases

The Hartland School District Meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Damon Hall. Town Meeting is set for Tuesday, March 5 at 9 a.m. at Damon Hall. Voting for town and school offices takes place by Australian Ballot between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Town Meeting Day.

Hartland — Increased special education needs and equipment costs are among the factors driving what would be a slight increase in tax rates should the school and town budgets pass.

Hartland’s proposed fiscal year 2014 town budget of $2.2 million is down just a hair from this year’s. It carries a decrease in spending of $7,900, less than 1 percent, from the current fiscal year, which ends in June. The amount to be raised by taxes to support the proposed budget is $1.8 million, a decrease of about $54,000, or about 3 percent.

However, should the budget pass, taxpayers will pay a little bit more. That’s because anticipated income for this year is $89,000 less than last year, when the town received a road construction grant and an enhancement grant to study the Three Corners intersection. The town is looking at building a traditional four-way intersection there to streamline traffic.

The decrease in anticipated revenue, along with a number of growing costs, made it “a very difficult budget,” said Town Manager Bob Stacey. “Fleet and liability insurance went up a lot,” and a $55,000 loan payment for the town’s new grader, was “a big nut.”

The budget includes a 3 percent raise for town employees.

Other articles include $60,000 to support the Hartland Volunteer Fire Department, $17,500 for the Hartland Rescue Squad, and about $31,000 for social service agencies that serve the town.

Should the budget and all of the articles pass, the town tax rate is expected to be about $1.91 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of just under 2 cents. That would bring the town tax bill for a home appraised at $250,000 up to $4,775, an increase of about $44. The county tax rate could go up by a little more than a half-cent, Stacey said, which would add an additional $14.50 onto the tax bill for a $250,000 property.

The tax bills themselves will look a little different this year, after the Selectboard voted to separate the county tax from the town tax. The numbers will appear separately on the bills, although Hartland will continue to collect the county tax and send it to Windsor County.

“It’s a tax that the town has no control over whatsover, similar to the state education tax, and we think that citizens ought to see that separately,” Stacey said.

As in several other Upper Valley towns, voters will also consider an article directing lawmakers to pass gun control regulations. The article asks state and federal legislators to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require a background check for every gun sold in the country, and make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Selectboard incumbents Martha McGlinn and Mary O’Brien are running in uncontested races for two- and three-year terms, respectively.

On the school side, the proposed $8.3 million budget is $736,264, or about 10 percent, higher than the current spending plan.

The amount to be raised by taxes to support the current budget is about $6.8 million. The proposed budget would require about $7.1 million in taxes.

The increase is due mainly to a greater need for special education services and higher tuition costs for high school students Hartland sends to other schools, said Ed Connors, business manager at Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union.

“You’re seeing enrollment go down” across the state, he said. “Fewer kids means higher tuition costs.”

Taxpayers currently pay about $1.51 on $100 of assessed value. Under the proposed school budget, that would go up to about $1.54, resulting in a school tax bill of $3,850 on a $250,000 home, an increase of about $75.

Voters will also weigh in on an article asking them to use $211,000 from the Hartland School District fiscal year 2012 general fund surplus to establish a reserve fund for use in offsetting any future deficits.

School Board Chairwoman Bettina Read and member Scott Richardson will run for two- and three-year seats on the board, respectively. Both races are uncontested.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.