Enfield Seeks to Save for Future Projects

Voting for Enfield’s town officers and zoning amendments will take place by official ballot on Tuesday, March 11 at Whitney Hall auditorium from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Articles 9 through 21 will be discussed and voted on at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 15 at Enfield Elementary Village School.

Enfield — The tax rate would go up even though spending on general fund expenses would go down by $200,000 in the budget proposed by the Selectboard — mostly due to funds the board wants to set aside for future capital expenses.

The proposed operating budget of $5.1 million is about 4 percent less than last year’s — the town’s new fiscal year began Jan. 1 — because the town doesn’t plan to spend as much money on capital improvement projects.

Last year, the town spent about $800,000 to repave Jones Hill Road and to extend water and sewer lines along the Route 4 District, which are aimed at encouraging business development, as well as adding a salt and sand shed.

But a nickel’s worth of the tax increase would result from a warrant article that would add about $292,000 into a reserve fund for capital improvements.

Enfield voters approved creation of the fund three years ago, and the town has been increasing the amount placed in it each year.

“It helps stabilize the tax rate so you don’t have these giant spikes,” Town Manager Steve Schneider said. “The end goal is to have enough money in the capital reserve to pay for things with cash on hand when it’s appropriate.”

Selectboard Chairman John Kluge added that there are a number of infrastructure issues Enfield is trying to tackle, including paving .

“I think Enfield is in a pretty good position to keep our expenditures at a reasonable level but still be able to do quite a bit,” Kluge said.

If the budget is approved, the town property tax rate would increase an estimated 8 cents to $6.22 per $1,000 of assessed value. That would bring a $20 increase — to $1,555 — on a $250,000 home.

Voters will be asked to approve $5.5 million in overall municipal spending, but that includes water and sewer operations, which are funded by user fees.

About 85 percent of the budget is “status quo,” Schneider said, with money being spent on deferred projects, including improving the acoustics in the community building for about $10,000 and increasing the gravel and dirt road budget from $40,000 last year to $70,000 this year.

“I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find someone in Enfield who doesn’t have to travel on a dirt or gravel road, so we need to make sure those roads are in good shape,” Schneider said.

The budget also includes about a 2 percent merit-based salary increase for town employees. Health insurance is up about 9 percent and accounts for about 10 percent of the budget.

There are separate warrant articles that seek $265,000 for two one-ton dump trucks and a fully equipped plow truck, and $30,000 to lease a police cruiser.

An article on the warrant asks residents if they support putting a dog park on a 2 acre parcel adjacent to the Shaker Recreation Park on Route 4A. Marcia Herrin, who has been spearheading the effort to establish a dog park in Enfield, said the article is merely advisory. The Selectboard ultimately will decide whether to develop the dog park.

“There’s no promises in the warrant article,” Herrin said. “I look at it more to gauge whether there is town support.”

The town owns the parcel, and it is part of a larger property that contains recreational ballfields. But Herrin said the property for the dog park isn’t now being used, although it is mowed once a year.

If the dog park is approved, development costs will be covered by fundraising undertaken by the nonprofit Mascoma Valley Dog Park Supporters, Herrin said. Herrin said it will likely cost about $50,000 to pay for fencing, parking and general maintenance.

Herrin has met with the Selectboard, Planning Board and Recreation Board and has contacted abutters, and said there have been concerns about how noise and parking might affect neighbors. It was the Selectboard’s suggestion, she said, to put the dog park on the warrant.

“If there’s good support at Town Meeting, it carries quite a bit of weight with the Selectboard,” Kluge said.

Another article asks residents to approve $10,000 for permitting and engineering to repair the Mascoma Lake boat launch parking lot on Route 4A. There are two separate parking lots on Route 4A — one for the boat launch, which is close to the water, and one for the beach, which is on the opposite side of the road. Schneider said the town has had complaints that beachgoers often park in the boat launch parking lot, so the town has decided to pave the boat launch parking lot and stripe it so that parking restrictions can be better enforced. This warrant article won’t pay for the paving of the lot, Schneider said, but it will get the engineering and permitting process started.

The town is also looking at building a new two-story library building, but that won’t affect the budget or taxes this year. The library is currently on the second floor of Whitney Hall, above the town offices. In 2008, the town allocated about $400,000 to be spent on engineering studies and building plans, and the library is trying to fundraise about $2.5 million on its own. The library has raised about $1 million so far, said Philip Cronenwett, chairman of the library trustees.

Cronenwett said the goal is to start construction after the 2015 Town Meeting, and it would be built behind Whitney Hall, which is currently a parking lot.

This year’s warrant includes an article that asks residents to amend the project list for the Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) District to include a new municipal parking lot to serve the town, police and new library building. Schneider said no money will be spent now, but the article would give the town permission to fund the new parking lot through the additional tax revenue anticipated from the TIF district.

There are also two warrant articles that would raise the income limits for tax exemption for elderly and disabled residents.

There is one contested race for the Budget Committee, with Annabelle Bamforth, Gayle Hulva and Mike Lorrey on the ballot for three seats. Holly Plumley West is also running as a write-in candidate.

As for the zoning amendments, Town Planner Scott Osgood described all the amendments as just “technical” changes that add definitions and consistency.

“None of these are changes to the zoning at all,” Osgood said. “They just fill in a few gaps and clarify things.”

On the school side, the Mascoma Valley Regional School District is asking residents to approve a $21.5 million renovation to the high school — the third year in a row the renovation is on the ballot.

School officials project that the renovation would cause Enfield residents to see a 2-cent hike the first year, 41 cents in the second year and 62 cents in the third, accumulating to $1.05 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $210 on a $200,000 home.

The school is also proposing a $22.8 million operating budget for the upcoming year, which is a 3.5 percent increase over the current year.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.