The Ludlow Selectboard replenishes departments with surplus

LUDLOW, Vt. – The Ludlow Selectboard has decided to use a $300,000 budget surplus to replenish funds pulled from several departments earlier in the budget season and leave the rest in a “rainy day fund,” determining how to apply the funds at the end of the fiscal year in July.

In early January, the town of Ludlow discovered an error in their budget calculations leaving them with a $106,000 shortfall. At that time, they pulled $70,000 from several departments to make up some of that difference, including $25,000 from the cemetery budget, $10,000 from the skate park fund, $10,000 from the Police budget, $10,000 from the lister’s reappraisal, and eliminating a crushed gravel purchase of $15,000.

Now, realizing over $300,000 in unassigned funds, the board agreed to replenish those departments fully and then set aside the remaining balance, possibly to buy down the tax rate which is set in July, something that Board Chairman Bruce Schmidt said he’s a proponent of.

The board initially talked about $443,000 in unassigned funds, but Municipal Manager Scott Murphy said that a portion of those funds were committed in the future, leaving approximately $300,000 available.

Rose Goings, Ludlow’s director of Planning and Zoning, updated the board on the efforts of the Planning Commission saying that the board had abandoned their efforts to move forward with a short-term rental registry. According to Goings, Vermont state legislators had started a house bill which encompasses many of their discussions around short-term rentals including launching a rental registry, issuing certifications of compliance for pest-free status, water and sewer issues, and zoning laws. Goings asked whether the Selectboard had any interest in pursuing the matter, otherwise it would go no further in their committee and they would await any legislation coming out of the Statehouse.

The Selectboard agreed to leave the issue to be decided at the state level and instead would put efforts into zoning and affordable housing initiatives although it was not something that “happens overnight,” according to Schmidt. He suggested they would need a financial partner to secure funding so people would have a reason to switch their rentals to provide long-term affordable housing.

Murphy said that the town had been communicating with the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce who were working with several surrounding towns to talk about work force housing. He had also reached out to Windham and Windsor Housing Trust in those efforts.

Board member Justin Hyjek said that Ski Vermont is looking to receive $950 million from the next stimulus package and “a lot of that is already going towards affordable housing developments and grants and subsidies,” funding that could be coming down the pike to help in Ludlow’s long-term housing efforts.

Murphy informed the board that Ludlow had been awarded nearly $6,000 in a Better Places Grant, which will build and place decorated picnic tables throughout Ludlow to provide places for people to eat their local takeout. Artists from Fletcher Farms, as well as student artists from the Expeditionary School at Black River, will be designing the tables.

A new potential owner has emerged for the former Fox Run property, still with the intention for use as a treatment and rehab facility. The new possible owner, Divided Sky, submitted an application; but according to Goings, it needs to be updated with a site plan before they can schedule them for a DRB meeting in April.

The board approved the proposed changes to the personnel policy which ensured employees working holidays would receive 1.5 times their regular rate and a replacement day of “straight time.” This policy largely impacts highway workers and matches the policy in place in the police contract. Although this had been the standard practice, it had not been formally written into the personnel policy until now.

The next Ludlow Selectboard meeting is Monday, April 5 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. The link is available on the town’s website.

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