April showers of the snow variety weren’t enough to stop Essex Junction village voters from showing out for the Annual Village Meeting at Essex High School, where they approved a $3.95 million general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The budget represents an increase of roughly $150,000, or 4 percent, over the current year and was approved by a majority voice vote.
Only $2.48 million of this budget will be raised through taxes, however, since $1 million will be transferred to the Essex Town budget to fund the village’s street department operating and paving costs.
The consolidation is part of an ongoing effort to merge village and town services aimed at evening out property tax rates throughout the two overlapping municipalities.
Just over $410,000 in non-tax revenue is also expected to make up the difference.
This results in a 4.1 percent tax rate decrease from the current year and represents roughly a penny per $100 of property value, which will save the owner of an average-priced home ($280,000) about $27 on their annual property tax bill.
Village residents also pay tax into the town of Essex, whose budget included a 4.7 increase approved in March.
The town’s budget results in a $68 property tax increase for village taxpayers.
Defrayed by the $27 decrease from the village budget, the general fund will increase property taxes by $41.
Nearly the same amount achieved in savings, however, will be added back via a penny tax levy, which voters approved Wednesday night. The additional penny, to create a fund for village capital improvements, will raise roughly $109,000 or $28 per household, Village Board of Trustees president George Tyler said.
“We see some opportunities in the coming years to leverage potentially a relatively small amount of money to make some significant improvements in the village center,” Tyler said.
After some voters voiced concerns about the reoccurring nature of the fund, the article was amended to be reconsidered in five years at the 2021 annual meeting.
The amended version of the article also passed unanimously.
This fund will differ from the village’s standard capital reserve fund, which is used for street, sidewalk and water maintenance and replacement.
It will rather be used to make infrastructure improvements around the village center, such as greening up a public space or establishing a small loan fund to help business owners make cosmetic property improvements, explained trustee member Elaine Sopchak.
At the end of the meeting, Rep. Tim Jerman (D) announced that after 12 terms serving the State House, he will not seek re-election this November.
Voters will next reconvene April 12, the same day the local school budgets are up for vote, to decide on village elections for one village trustee, one village moderator and two Brownell Library board trustees.
Current village trustee Lori Houghton will run for a three-year term, Steven Eustis will run for a one-year term as village moderator, Nina Curtiss will run for a five-year term as library trustee and Elizabeth Glaspie will run for a one-year term as library trustee.
All four are running unopposed.