Town Garage rebuild complicates challenging annual budget review process


By Robert Bloch, Contributor

The Selectboard met in a Special Session Monday evening to work on the Town municipal budget, address several personnel matters and update progress on replacing the town garage, which was destroyed recently in a fire.  The Selectboard’s budgeting challenge was punctuated by the observation that the sum of all departmental budgets as requested by the various groups, including the quasi-independent Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (CVFRS) and the Library, would yield a tax increase estimated at just under 30%, before any added expense for replacing the town garage.  Although it was noted that the municipal portion of a property owner’s total property tax “nut” is only around 10%, with around 90% consumed by education, there was general agreement by Selectboard members that this amount of increase would be very difficult for taxpayers to swallow.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and these details provide some perspective:

  1. Charlotte’s municipal budget had been held essentially flat for the three previous years.
  2. A significant portion of the increase is to pay for salary and benefit adjustments for town personnel, including library staff, the necessary change by CVFRS from an all-volunteer staff, to one including some professional management staff, and the increase in Planning & Zoning staff to three full timers.
  3. The remaining increases reflect the individual requests for funding from various groups (e.g. CVFRS, Senior Center, Recreation, Trails, etc.).

The additional financial impact of replacing the town garage and related equipment is unclear at the moment.  Site evaluation and engineering studies are underway and the potential budget impact of a likely bonding mechanism to fund the rebuild has yet to be determined.

The Selectboard requested several additional analyses be conducted to help clarify certain matters and will reconvene on January 10 to work further on the budget.

In other business, following executive sessions, the Selectboard voted unanimously to appoint Keith Oborne as Planning and Zoning Administrator beginning on January 20 and approved a severance package for Caroline Kulik of the Senior Center staff.





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