Rockingham Selectboard approve the 2022 level-funded budget

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Rockingham Selectboard approved their fiscal year 2022 budget of $6,021,089 with $5,122,944 to be raised by taxes. With an increase to the grand list this year and fund balances in the general and highway funds, the budget is level-funded with a preliminary tax rate set at 1.0903, a slight decrease of 0.0087.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup presented the level-funded budget and said, “We feel fairly confident that this budget meets all of your operational concerns [and] addresses some of your capital concerns.”

Finance Director Shannon Burbela agreed, “Our fund balances are extremely conservative so even with using fund balances for the paving article as well as transferring fund balance to supplementing the general fund, we will be well within our limits.” She also commented, “If we remain in a pandemic and for any reason we need to cut costs, we will do the same as we did this fiscal year and remain well under the operating budget if needed.”

Regarding additional spending in fiscal year 2021, Burbela explained that salaries for herself, Chuck Wise, Chief David Bemis, and Chief Shaun McGinnis had been reimbursed with state funding that the town of Rockingham had received in December for Covid-19 related expenses. She explained, “Revenue will offset expenses for anything Covid-related.”

Pickup also mentioned that there may be more Covid-19 reimbursement funding coming from the state this year.

Susan Hammond asked about a budgeted $12,000 part-time salary for an executive assistant position. Burbela explained that she and Pickup agreed they would both “continue to maintain that position.” Chair Gaetano Putignano asked if Burbela was being compensated for the HR and executive assistant responsibilities she has taken on this year. Burbela replied she was not.

Hammond said, “I think asking you to do this for [another] whole year is not fair to you.” Putignano agreed and said Burbela “should be compensated.”

Pickup said he had the ability to give a merit raise, which he and Burbela had discussed recently. Regarding the executive assistant position, Pickup commented, “With a level-funded budget, we really didn’t think it was the time to start adding positions.”

Following the budget discussion, the Selectboard motioned and approved the budget as well as the 1.0903 tax rate.

There will be an informational meeting about the fiscal 2022 budget Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. via Zoom or in person at Town Hall and Town Meeting will be Monday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Due to Covid-19 and social distancing guidelines, the state has passed legislation that allows towns to decide whether to vote by Australian ballot at this year’s town meetings. In Rockingham, the town meeting articles will be voted on by Australian ballot Tuesday, March 2.

Article 10 of the town meeting warning is about a request that going forward starting in fiscal year 2023, the library budget would be voted on by Australian ballot. Petitions were presented to the town clerk with enough signatures to add the article to the meeting warning this year. The Selectboard approved the annual warning with a few small changes to wording.

The Rockingham Selectboard meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House and by Zoom.

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