Town budget season is here, and just before the holidays, Colchester administrators and the town selectboard unveiled the proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 22.
The proposed budget of $13,482,862 would require a 2% increase in municipal service property taxes.
“The proposed FY22 budget maintains our current level of service and addresses needs,” Town Manager Aaron Frank wrote in a Dec. 4 memo to the selectboard. “These needs are related both to the COVID emergency and were caused by slow, steady growth over past decades.”
The selectboard will host a public hearing on the budget Jan. 12, when community members will have the opportunity to provide feedback. After the hearing, the selectboard could move to approve the budget, therefore sending it to the Town Meeting Day ballot where it will either be approved or declined by voters.
Here’s what you should understand prior to the hearing:
The town’s municipal property tax is increasing by 2% or $0.5592 per $100 of assessed value.
Here’s how that would look based on home value:
This tax rate is impacted by two town funds, the Operating Budget and Capital Funding. Both of those funds have grown in size this year for various reasons.
The town’s operating budget is increasing by 2.7%.
The operating budget is comprised of 25 service categories, of which the expenses of six decreased, and 16 increased.
Here are a few examples of some of the changes causing an increase:
- A part-time position in the town manager’s office will be made full time with benefits and a half-time emergency manager position will be created. “These changes will help us to...provide public information during the COVID emergency and to aggressively apply for and manage state and federal funding to cover unbudgeted costs related to COVID,” Frank wrote in a Nov. 18 memo to the selectboard.
- More funding will be given to the Department of Public Works (DPW) to purchase gravel for maintaining gravel roads and sand for treating roadways in winter.
- A part-time position will be added to the DPW Maintenance Garage to take care of the upkeep of fire equipment and perform other repairs and improvements.
The portion of the Capital Fund that is funded by property taxes is increasing 2.2%.
The Capital Fund budget and the projects it will pay for were already approved by Colchester voters.
Projects funded by this increase and that will be undertaken in FY22 include a refurbished entrance to the Burnham Memorial Library and a new roof for the Meeting House. A perimeter walking path will also be built at Airport Park this year.
Read more about the Capital Fund here.
The tax rate is also increasing because revenues from non-tax sources are expected to decrease by 1.1%.
Non-tax revenues — like passport fees, park facility rentals and dog license fees — were down in the past year because of COVID-19. These revenues typically help support the operating budget, but property taxes will have to make up the difference this year.
“When these revenues do not grow by the same rate as operating expenses in the general fund budget, property taxes must fund an increased share of the budget,” Frank wrote in a Nov. 27 memo.
Overall, town administrators and the selectboard tried to keep the increase in taxes to a minimum.
"[Town] departments could better meet the residents and taxpayer needs with more resources," Frank wrote Nov. 18. "However, the residents, businesses and voters also wish to keep the tax rate affordable and this budget represents a balance of those competing goals."
If approved by the selectboard and by voters, the tax increase would go into effect on July 1, when FY22 begins.