Tax bills were mailed out last week, and I’m disappointed to report that the town tax rate increased by approximately 1.5 cents over last year. We had estimated a tax rate increase of a half-cent when we presented the budget to you in March.
What has changed? Since then the assessed value of the Green Mountain Power hydro dams on the Lamoille River declined by over $8 million. This value is determined by a formula based on the 10-year average of energy costs in New England. Last year the dams increased in value by $2.5 million. This devaluation of the dams had a negative impact on the town’s grand list, which ultimately led to the additional 1 cent increase in your tax rate.
We have worked really hard to find saving and efficiencies throughout town government. As a result, the town will be spending over $160,000 less this year than we did last year. Everyone has worked so hard to keep the tax rate flat only to have it increase as a result of something that we cannot control. Going forward, I will continue to work with the selectboard and staff to find efficiencies in an effort to keep your tax and utility rates affordable.
On a positive note, below is a list of things we have accomplished in the last seventeen months:
- Negotiated new three-year contracts with both labor unions that moves us closer to equity amongst all employees. All employees are now contributing toward health insurance premiums.
- Stabilized staff
- Reorganized town government structure to better serve both residents and staff
- Collected $200,000 in an errant water/sewer bills
- Signed MOU with mobile home parks to correct $80,000 billing error
- Spent just under $1 million in paving last year
- Hired some key staff from private sector and made important promotions in highway, police and planning that have proven to be key to service and morale
- Completed a number of highway, park and other long awaited projects such as new fieldhouse, dog park, selective forest management among others
- Reduced property and casualty insurance costs by more than $120,000
- Secured a long-term lease for the Milton Grange
- Prepared documentation and presentation for successful TIF and budget votes
- Secured key property for hourglass project
- Conducted successful goal setting and a number of staff training sessions
- Constructed a gravel sidewalk to connect pedestrian network and added Brandy Lane sidewalk as well as a 500 feet of replacement sidewalk
- Opened up Bombardier property for citizen use
- Repaired municipal building roof, paved parking lots, installed a new town government wide phone system and new website
- Relocated bus stop and upgraded commuter parking lot
- Purchased just over $1 million in new equipment for highway and fire departments
- Making progress on East Road bridge replacement, culverts and road improvements
- Applied for and received over $700,000 in VTrans grants including $300,000 to replace vacuum truck
- Restored working relationship with school district
- Incorporated a detailed tax rate informational flyer in envelope with tax bill
Please feel free to contact me at the town manager’s office 893-6655 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be happy to assist you.