Weathersfield Looks to Build Up Reserve Funds

Valley News Correspondent
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The town and school informational session will be on March 3, beginning with the school at 10 a.m. at the Weathersfield Middle School, followed by the town at 12:30 p.m. Voting by Australian ballot on the town and school warnings, including budgets and other appropriations, and the election of officers will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 6 in Martin Memorial Hall.

Weathersfield — As he recommended last year, Town Manager Ed Morris is again asking residents to support his financial philosophy of building up reserve funds for capital purchases and not using budget surpluses to offset tax increases.

On the March 6 Town Meeting warning, four articles request a total of $82,500 for the highway maintenance, fire motorized equipment, police cruiser and fire equipment and gear funds. Last year, three articles for $67,000 in three reserve funds were defeated.

“We understand this may be a tough year to add reserves, but we stand by the philosophy that we need to plan for the future to stabilize the tax rate,” Morris said in his budget explanation.

Continuing to use surpluses to keep the tax rate down without reducing spending will bring the town to the point where surpluses run low and a sharp increase in the tax rate is needed to make up for that loss of revenue, he said.

Morris advocates using surpluses to either complete capital projects or fund reserves.

The reserve fund requests on this year’s warning would come from taxes, Morris said.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1 of $1.48 million is just $3,900 more than the current year’s and will require about $15,000 fewer tax dollars because of higher non-tax revenues, Morris said. The highway budget of $1.1 million is up $51,000, with the amount of tax dollars increasing by $64,000 if the budget is approved. Morris said part of that increase is because of less revenue from the transfer station. Higher costs for gravel and stone are a big part of the increase as the town emphasizes the need for more road maintenance, Morris said.

There are four articles for social service agency appropriations this year, totaling $5,100. Requests for amounts less than $500 now are included in the budget under a new town policy.

The only appropriation on the school warning is a $5.6 million budget, which represents a decrease of less than 1 percent, or about $54,000, from this year’s budget. Despite the reduction, the estimated tax rate impact is a 10 cent increase in the homestead tax rate to nearly $1.66 per $100 of assessed valuation.

A lower common level of appraisal, which shows town property assessed on average 96 percent of market value, and less money from the state education fund are driving the tax increase.

School Board Chairman Sean Whalen said the board decided to make some cuts and use $120,000 from a reserve fund to offset some of the tax increase.

Among the reductions were new computer purchases, new software and a planned increase in the hours for the school’s Spanish teacher.

If all appropriations for both the town and school are approved, the estimated combined homestead and municipal tax increase of 14.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would increase property taxes on a $200,000 home by $292 to $4,716.

There are no contested races for either town or school offices. Though she did not file to have her name on the ballot, incumbent Robin Tindall will seek another one-year term on the School Board as a write-in candidate. No one filed to run for that seat.

Though Windsor and West Windsor will be voting on whether to merge their school districts under the provisions of Act 46, Weathersfield is asking the state Board of Education to allow it to remain a K-8 standalone district. A decision is expected in June.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.