BELLOWS FALLS — The Rockingham Select Board approved a $6.3 million town budget last week that will mean a one cent decrease in the tax rate.
But the tax rate could jump five cents, depending on what special spending articles voters approve at Town Meeting.
The $6,353,627 budget would require local taxes of $5,079,264, with a projected tax rate of $1.078 per $100 of valuation, according to Select Board Chairman Peter Golec.
The board last week debated whether a proposal to buy a new $150,000 town highway plow truck should be included in the budget, or left up to the voters. The highway truck would add 3 cents to the tax rate.
Other proposals that could increase the tax rate slightly is a $75,000 appropriation toward the purchase of the Bellows Falls train station, which would need a 1.5 cent increase, and a $22,000 contribution to the capital reserve fund for the town-owned Rockingham Meeting House, half a cent.
Golec said he wanted, if at all possible, to keep the proposed tax rate level or a slight decline, although the three articles would increase the rate four cents.
Rockingham Development Director Gary Fox said it wasn’t true that Rockingham voters had several years ago turned down an article to purchase the train station, and while he didn’t name names, Golec admitted he had made that claim. Voters had turned down a proposal regarding the TLR Paper Mill, Fox said, but the railroad station never came up for a vote.
Support for the town purchase, which would also be funded with state and federal funds, appears strong in response to two recent demolitions of historic properties, Fox said.
Golec said he would check the record.
One big factor affecting the budget deliberations was the pending reimbursement from FEMA for last summer’s storm expenses of about $650,000. So far, the town has paid those bills out of the highway department’s surplus, which under normal circumstances could have gone toward purchasing the truck.
Town Manager Scott Pickup has proposed a big increase in paving this year, to about $870,000.
Golec said the town could afford the big jump in paving, which would get the town back on track for its paving schedule, because the town had finally paid off the bond it took out to pay for the rebuilding and paving of Brockways Mills Road several years ago.
The Select Board will hold a hybrid Town Meeting, with the in-person meeting held in the Lower Theater in the Rockingham Town Hall.
Pickup said last year’s turnout for Town Meeting was modest — only 15 people were there in person in the Opera House auditorium, with another 40 people attending via Zoom. He said there were technology and wifi reception problems in the Opera House, that the town does not experience in the Lower Theater, the former Women’s Club Room.
“Wifi is so spotty up there,” Pickup said.
Earlier in last week’s meeting, the board heard from Kathleen Govotski of the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, who raised concerns about the security of The Waypoint Center, where the chamber is located and which is owned by the town.
Govotski said there were several keys out in the community, and she asked the board whether it would be possible to recall the keys to assure the safety and security of the chamber office.
“It could be a serious problem,” she said, adding that she didn’t want the town to have the expense of changing the locks on the building.
She also said that the maintenance of the building, including the monthly cleaning, appeared to be on hiatus. Golec and Pickup said the regular maintenance person had been out sick.