Waitsfield voters facing budget increase

By Lisa Loomis

Waitsfield voters will be asked to approve an 18-month budget at Town Meeting this year.

The select board is still working on the budget and while some line items may be adjusted, the increase over last year's budget will be about 6.7 percent, according to town administrator Valerie Capels.

The budget spreadsheet breaks out 2013 budgeted and actual expenses as well as expenses for the first six months of 2014, then 12 months from June 2014 to 2015, and then the 18-month totals. The town is switching its fiscal year from a calendar year to a July 1 to June 30 year.

The 2013 budget reflects legal fees of $53,904, significantly higher than the $10,000 budgeted for 2013. The legal fees include $31,000 paid to Virginia Houston to settle all lawsuits with the town. That $31,000 is listed as an expense of the town's municipal water project, but it was paid by the town because the water department had not yet begun billing in January 2013 when Houston was paid. Capels said it has yet to be determined whether the water project will pay the town back for the settlement.

Town road department expenses for 2013 were $138,784. The 18-month proposed budget for the road department is $209,553 and the 12-month proposal is $139,035.

The town's health insurance costs were $76,833 in 2013. The 18-month budget proposal for health care is $113,400 and the 12-month proposed budget is for $75,627.

The town's law enforcement costs are going up in the proposed budget. Net 2013 costs were $21,011. The 18-month proposed budget is $48,349 and the 12-month proposal amount is $32,135.

The town's contribution to its various reserve funds was $206,500 in 2013. The 18-month proposal is for $176,500 and the 12-month proposal is the same.

Net total expenses for 2013 were $1,219,424. Net 18-month total expenses are proposed at $1,911,241 and the 12-month budget is proposed at $1,396,688.


Budget increase or decrease depends on a truck

By Rachel Goff

On Monday, January 13, the Moretown Select Board discussed including an article on the ballot for Town Meeting that asks taxpayers to approve the borrowing of up to $160,000 from the town's Capital Reserve Fund to be paid back within five years to purchase a new tandem-axle dump truck for the highway department.

At the end of the evening, the board agreed to consult road foreman Martin Cameron before making a decision on whether or not to include the article at their next meeting on Tuesday, January 21. Without the dump truck purchase, Moretown's budget comes in at $1,026,646, representing a 3.9 percent decrease over last year's budget of $1,068,802.

According to a recommendation from select board member Reed Karrow, if the town chose to purchase a new tandem-axle dump truck, rather than borrowing money from the bank at about 4 percent interest, it could borrow money from the town's Capital Reserve Fund at 1 percent interest.

If the town paid back the purchase at a slightly higher interest rate of 2 percent—in order to build the Capital Reserve Fund—over a three-year period, the first payment would add about $55,000 to next year's budget, representing a 1.2 percent increase over last year's rather than a 3.9 percent decrease.

According to Karrow, the body of the 2004 tandem-axle dump truck is scheduled to be replaced in one year anyway, which will cost the town about $29,000 and even afterwards the highway department is unsure how long the truck will last. "Anything with metal, prices are going up astronomically," Karrow said, and the town could save money replacing the body and instead put it towards a new truck.

According to estimates, the town will get about $40,000 for trading in the 2004 tandem-axle truck. A new truck will likely cost between $180,000 and $190,000, bringing the total purchase price down to about $150,000. To allow for some fluctuation, if the town includes an article on the ballot for Town Meeting Day it will ask for voters to approve borrowing up to $160,000.

If the purchase of a new truck is an article on the ballot, "we can explain it," select board chair Tom Martin said, "and then let it go to the voters to decide."

One thing the select board plans to look into before deciding whether or not to include the article is the status of the town's 2007 tandem-axle dump truck, which, depending on the condition it's in, the town could trade in instead and keep the 2004 truck.

Select board assistant Cheryl Brown also pointed out that depending on when the town purchases the new truck, the first payment to the Capital Reserve Fund may not need to take place until 2015 and, therefore, could be included in next year's budget rather than this year's.

The select board will meet again on Tuesday, January 21, to set the final town budget after consulting with Cameron as to the relative reliability of the 2004 and 2007 trucks.