CLARENDON — The Select Board on Monday approved a budget that, if passed by voters in March, will contribute to a 1-cent increase on the tax rate.
Town Treasurer Heidi Congdon said last week that after several budget workshops, the board had planned to approve the budget on Monday.
“We’re looking at a little over a penny for an increase, a 1-cent increase on the municipal tax rate,” she said.
The town will look to raise $1,107,289 in taxes, roughly a $45,000 increase over last year.
“The majority of that increase is due to the increase in Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance,” she said, saying that line item is up about $13,000.
She said this isn’t counting the individual articles decided upon by voters at Town Meeting Day. Those total about $251,000 should each one pass.
The board, for several years, has made an effort to keep the budget from growing as much as possible, according to Congdon.
“There were a couple things we were looking to potentially do this year,” she said. “For instance, we were talking about installing heat pumps into the Town Hall to make it more efficient, but with it being a pandemic year we didn’t feel that we could pass that onto taxpayers at this time, so we pushed that project off.”
The global coronavirus pandemic has left most local governments looking to spend as little as possible this year, given its impact on the economy.
“At the town garage, they were also talking about doing some renovations and potentially adding a bay to the town garage,” said Congdon. “But at this time, as well, it being a pandemic year, we didn’t feel it was fiscally responsible to put that on the taxpayer when they’re already struggling, so that also got bumped.”
She said there’s been no formal plan for town highway garage renovations put before the board.
The Rutland County Sheriff’s Department is budgeting a 1% increase, said Congdon, which is low compared to previous years.
Congdon said the town was able to save in other areas.
“We were able to reduce the vehicle maintenance budget for our highway, just because in this fiscal year we had some equipment upgrades, so because those are newer vehicles we were able to cut $10,000 from that budget, as we don’t expect to have as much maintenance on those, so that’s a good savings,” she said.
At the Monday board meeting, Selectman Bob Bixby said what’s been presented is a good budget, although he lamented any level of increase.
“I’m still pleased with the budget we’re presenting, and I think that … it’s a reasonable budget,” said Selectman Robert Congdon. “It’s within the margin of inflation, so to speak; I think we’re presenting a reasonable budget to voters, so I’m pleased with the work.”
The board did opt to freeze employee salaries for the 2022 fiscal year.
“I think that was a hard decision to make, but I also think that given everything that’s gone on, I think it’s appropriate,” he said, adding that the matter can be revisited in the following budget cycle.
Heidi Congdon said the board will meet once more to finalize the town warning, but doesn’t expect changes.