Selectboard holds last workshop for fiscal year 2021 town budget

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Springfield Selectboard held its third and final budget workshop during its Jan. 13 regular meeting and worked long into the night to arrive at a 2020-21 budget of approximately $12,611,931, which represents a 3.49% increase from last year. The Selectboard then presented its budget, along with three warrant articles, at a public hearing Monday, Jan. 20.

The meeting Jan. 13 lasted more than four hours while the Budget Advisory Committee presented its recommendations for budget increases and decreases. The Selectboard members and the committee discussed the reasons for some recommendations while individual department heads defended their departments’ needs.

The first action by the Board was to make a motion, which passed unanimously, to accept 21 of the committee’s budget recommendations for decreases that were discussed and worked out in advance of the meeting between the committee and the departments who approved the numbers. Total reductions to these line items was $32,944, a number that reduced the overall budget increase this year to $305,312. Some of these recommended decreases included: Debt Interest from $55,000 to $46,381; Debt Principal from $115,000 to $110,000; Catch Basin Cleaning from $5,000 to $3,000; Cemetery Equipment Fund from $7,000 to $6,000; Safety Material and Equipment from $8,000 to $6,000; and Parks and Recreation Building Repair from $14,000 to $10,000.

Next, the Board went line by line considering the committee’s remaining recommendations, some of which were decreases contested by departments.

The committee recommended a decrease in the line item for the Police Department’s Equipment and Building Fund from $29,000 to $6,667, or a total reduction of $22,333. This line item concerns the portable radios, computers, the WatchGuard in-car system, and the Guardian tracking software the department needs. After discussion, the Board unanimously voted to approve a decrease of $5,586 instead of the recommended $22,333, and the department agreed to put the radios on a four-year track instead of three years.

A reduction of $6,500 from $58,500 to $52,000 was recommended by the committee for the Police Department’s Vehicle Fund budget and was based upon the proposal to change the department’s fleet purchases from one and a half vehicles per year to one and a third vehicles per year. The Chief argued that the front-line vehicles get 24/7 wear and tear. He said a new vehicle was ordered eight and a half months ago and he is still waiting for it. He added that within the past month, one vehicle blew a transmission and another officer’s car was rear-ended, causing both to be out of service. The Chief said front line vehicles have an average life of two to three years. If one is taken out of service, a back-line vehicle gets moved to the front.

Chair Kristi Morris said it is a slippery slope if back-line vehicles have to replace front-line vehicles. Ultimately, the Selectboard took no action on this line item so the one and a half vehicles per year remains in place.

The Board took no action on the committee’s recommendation to reduce the Public Works’ Department Equipment Fund Contribution line item by $185,000 from $350,000 to $165,000. Director Jeff Strong was opposed the cut and said his trucks were running in very heavy-duty conditions.

The Committee recommended a net increase of $48,000 to the Transportation Path Maintenance budget. This amount does not include the previously requested $10,000 for repair to the Toonerville Trail. Various motions and amendments to those motions were made by the Board to change the increase in this budget. Ultimately, the Board approved a motion for a $20,000 increase instead of $48,000.

The committee recommended an increase to the Interfund Transfer line item of $30,000 from $420,000 to $450,000. This is a bond issue and Public Works Director Jeff Strong said he needs $30,000 to offset sewer rates. Strong said water and sewer rates are high because of the state mandate to separate storm water drain off from sewer lines. Strong said it has taken 20 years working toward becoming a non-CSO, Combined Sewer Overflows, community and now there are no overflows into the river from here to Long Island Sound. Since the last rate increase, Strong said, three or four projects were done, requiring a repayment of principal and interest at $590,000 per year, which is phased over 20 years.

“We did an awful lot of work with bond money,” Strong said. He said if the Board doesn’t recommend approval, it would come out of the sewer budget. After discussion, the Board motioned to approve a $15,000 increase instead of $30,000, and that motion passed unanimously.

The committee recommended a decrease of $44,243 in Non-emergency Transport from $394,243 to $350,000, which Town Manager Tom Yennerell said is projecting ahead of last year. A motion to keep the Non-Emergency Transport budget at $394,243 was made and passed by a 4-1 majority.

The committee recommended a $5,000 increase to the retaining wall budget line item from $5,000 to $10,000. Board member Peter MacGillivray said the cost to repair 20 retaining walls is astronomical and the town should be looking for grants. Jeff Strong said the $10,000 would cover a look at all of the projects and pay for some engineering. The Board voted unanimously to approve the increase.

Board member Walter Martone said, “The town runs on a shoestring, and this year we are presenting a budget increase of about 3.5%.” He said last year a much smaller increase was approved by a small margin. Martone said the Advisory Committee did a thorough job looking under every stone to prevent the tax rate from getting higher and added that last year there was a budget freeze part way through the year.

The Public Hearing was held Monday, Jan. 20 when the Board presented its final budget along with three warrant articles, which are: paving warrant article of $700,000; Riverside Parking Lot paving article of $355,901; and Riverwalk Bond Vote $116,363. The Selectboard will have crafted the language for the budget and articles in preparation for the public hearing, and, once approved, that language will be moved to the Warrant and signed Jan. 27.

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