Halifax budget sees no increase
HALIFAX >> Some voters at annual Town Meeting may be disappointed with the lack of an article asking to repeal zoning regulations.
"By the time they handed it in, we didn't know about it," said Selectboard Chairman Lewis Sumner. "It has to go through the Planning Commission under Act 117. They look at it then hand it to the Selectboard then we have a special election. I don't know when that will be."
The petition included 125 signatures, according to Selectboard Secretary Robbin Gabriel
The good news is the proposed budget, which voters will be asked to approve at Town Meeting on March 1, doesn't call for an increase. Although the tax rate won't change by much, the total amount needed from tax collection is down.
"We're going to raise about $8,000 less than it was before," said Sumner, referring to the budget approved last year at Town Meeting. "The total budget is down some but we're not getting as much revenue from other things that we did last year. We had a little bit more money from different things to reduce the taxes."
Some of the town's funds accrued interest, Sumner explained, and some previous budgeting numbers came in lower than anticipated. But still, he warned, some of the costs can only be estimated.
Like many other towns, Halifax is seeing a reduction in costs related to heating and oil. Approximately $10,000 was cut out of town and highway budget line items for diesel fuel alone.
"The fuel prices right now are down real low," said Sumner, adding that was the biggest reduction in the budget.
Another savings involves the town's landfill.
"The state says we don't have to test and inspect every year so we're saving about $3,500," said Sumner.
The Selectboard, approached by the Halifax School Board, approved of putting in an additional $40,000 to insure no penalties were incurred from the spending threshold put forth by the education law Act 46. The funding will be considered user or rental fees.
If the school budget were to include the figure, the town could have been taxed double for every dollar above the limit. Each district was given an amount it should not exceed with the idea of capping increases in education costs at 2 percent statewide.
Since the law was enacted last year, districts' allowable growth was bumped up by 0.9 percent to account for a hike in insurance premium costs. But needing a warning ready by Jan. 30, officials in Halifax decided to add the funding without delay.
The worry, according to Sumner, was over how new families coming to town affects the budget. For instance, an unanticipated high school student costs $17,000 due to the town covering up to that amount in tuition rates. In a town with a total proposed operating budget of $1,206,004, the hit can be significant.
Last year saw the arrival of two new students in the older grades.
"So there's over $30,000 more than anticipated," said Sumner. "We put that (money) in so in case they did have somebody that came in. The tuition eats it up really fast."
The Highway Department budget is down a little from last year. The proposed $860,978 is $35,000 less than last year.
Not only did the diesel fuel savings help but bridge maintenance was reduced by approximately $10,000. The proposed budget calls for minor maintenance on bridges and a repair on one located at the bottom of Hubbard Hill on Branch Road.
"The railings were cement and they've all deteriorated," Sumner said. "So they're going to put new ones on. Then we're going to paint the stringers so they don't rust."
Two seats on the Selectboard will need to be filling. Interim board member and Road Commissioner Brad Rufus is running for the three-year seat while Mitchell Green is going for the two-year seat.
Green served on the board a few years ago, Sumner said, but has been off it for about six years.
An informational meeting will take place in the gymnasium at Halifax School on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. The candidates will speak there.
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