Wind: 6 mph
By Rob Roberts
It's November already and the year is winding down. With the Thanksgiving holiday around the corner we are all taking stock on how the year went, where we are currently and how we will end up. Being that the town of Moretown is on a calendar financial year, it too is in this mode of thinking as it prepares its 2010 budget for presentation next March. As the Moretown Select Board prepares its budget, it has to consider the economy and its impact. It is clear that the country, as a whole, faces a very uncertain economy which means that it will also be uncertain for Vermont and its inhabitants. Washington has taken the bold step of increasing spending and debt in hopes of stimulating the economy and being able to outgrow its problems. They have this option because of economy of scale, the ability to borrow from other countries, and the authority to print money. This option could succeed or fail miserably.
Moretown and other Vermont towns do not have this option and maybe
that's a good thing. What they do have is good old Vermonter sense. For
Moretown, that means not expanding on its budget and programs. There
are some commitments that have already been made, however, that cannot
be avoided. In essence, they are the new garage bond to which a full
installment payment is to be made in 2010, paying for the recent town
hall repairs, and the possible need of a new town truck. Moretown is
also facing a mandated reappraisal of its property, which will need
additional funding. In my opinion, the reappraisal needs to happen in
2010 so that it gets incorporated into the state's calculation of
Common Level of Appraisal in 2011. The Common Level of Appraisal has
had a major impact on the school tax rate, which many people may not
realize makes up 83 percent of their tax bill in Moretown. Fixing this
early on can only help alleviate tax pressures.
This all seems daunting, but it is manageable and Moretown is not at the point where it has to slash and burn everything that it has built up. We can maintain our operations, infrastructures and those who serve us at adequate and fair levels. The high tax rate that Moretown taxpayers felt this year has allowed us to do so and I thank them for the sacrifice. In return, our select board needs to keep growth of the budget down and find ways to reduce taxes. Analysis and management of our cash flow needs may offer a possibility for the coming year. Also, with the new Capital Improvement Plan to be managed by the planning commission, the select board members will have a long-term schedule for projects prepared for them allowing them to concentrate on current operating issues. This will provide for more efficiency in what gets done and also allows for more citizen input on how their town is managed and developed.
Keeping Moretown's budget level will be difficult but not impossible. The economy this year has had some moments of deflation suggesting that a level budget need not factor in inflation and thus allow for a lower tax rate. I am not of that persuasion. In light of how Washington has handled its finances, I am inclined to view the opposite. Let's hope that I am wrong and that Washington's plan succeeds; otherwise, Moretown and all other Vermont towns will have to slash and burn or have its taxpayers bear a much greater burden in the coming years.
Rob Roberts is a member of the Moretown Select Board.