By Joe Colangelo, Shelburne Town Manager
Shelburne voters have an opportunity to decide on the proposed $7,485,529 Fiscal Year 2016 Town of Shelburne General Fund budget by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 3 between 7am-7pm at the Town Offices. Money items on the ballot include a base budget of $7,454,229 and $25,000 for the Open Space Fund. In addition, $6,300 for Selectboard stipends will be voted from the floor at Town Meeting on Monday, March 2. Early voting is available at the Town Clerk’s Office. The General Fund budget includes the following functions: government administration, recreation, library, police and dispatch, highway, stormwater management, firefighting, Shelburne Rescue, cemeteries, and health and social services. Shelburne’s water and wastewater budgets are approved independently each year before July 1. The proposed General Fund budget represents a $22,201 decrease in total expenditures compared to the current year. However, due to the loss of non-property tax revenue, the desire to provide a level set of municipal services, and modest grand list growth, the property tax rate required to support this budget, if all budget articles pass, is anticipated to increase by 2.9%, or 1¢.
Like most Vermont municipalities, Shelburne relies primarily on property tax revenue to support municipal operations. Roughly 75% of the total budget is funded via property taxes. Other significant sources of revenue include charges for dispatch and 911 services (4%), charges for recreation programs (2%), and highway state aid money from the State of Vermont (2%). Due to the heavy dependence placed on property tax revenue relative to other sources, Shelburne is particularly sensitive to annual grand list growth in order to retain current levels of service provided at a stable cost to the tax payer. Since the last reappraisal in 2008, the grand list has grown on average of 0.7% annually and the proposed FY2016 budget assumes growth on par with the average. The grand list represents the total value of all taxable real estate in Shelburne and grand list growth follows the level of real estate improvements made in the prior year.
On the expenditure side, the single largest cost to the Town of Shelburne is personnel. $4,192,000 (56%) of the total expenditure budget supports the 45 full-time, six regular part-time, and numerous part-time seasonal employees funded through the General Fund. No increase in staff is proposed in this budget. Other significant costs include $682,223 (9%) for debt service, $300,000 (4%) for road paving, and $223,000 (3%) for property and casualty insurance. Shelburne’s largest department is the Police Department. 12 full-time police officers, 27% of all full-time employees, are included with the $1,603,358 budget, 21% of the total. Following the Police Department, $1,305,334 (17%) is allocated for the Highway Budget, $604,452 (8%) for dispatch, and $371,333 (5%) is budgeted for the Pierson Library. Some departments are supported primarily through non-property tax sources of revenue. For example, 52% of the Recreation Department is funded from fees and other sources of revenue, 68% of the Dispatch budget is supported by outside agencies, and Shelburne Rescue is 100% self-sufficient requiring zero support from property taxes.
Significant increases in the proposed FY2016 budget include a $130,000 increase for employee health insurance premiums, a $16,000 increase to the stormwater management budget in order to complete a 3-year study on Munroe Brook to determine what stormwater mitigation measures are required since it’s considered an impaired waterway, a $11,000 increase to the Town’s membership to the Chittenden County Regional Transportation Authority (CCTA), and a $23,000 increase in our property and casualty insurance.
Tangible enhancements proposed in the FY2016 budget include: a sidewalk from the Town Offices to the Shelburne Museum on the westerly side of Rte 7 funded by a 90% State grant, a replacement pick-up truck for our Buildings and Grounds Department, a new field mower, 2 new police cruisers, a thermal imaging camera and lock system for the Fire Department, the digitization of land records in the Town Clerk’s Office, approximately 3 miles of road pavement, a new utility truck and plow for the Highway Department, and improvements to the Bay Park Trail. Furthermore, the Planning and Zoning budget includes plans to update historic preservation design guidelines and complete an update to the Village Transportation Study.
Shelburne’s proposed FY2016 municipal budget is the result of a rigorous, inclusive, and transparent review process which started back in July with the annual review of the Capital Improvement Plan. The municipal budget is not just about numbers and dollar signs. It’s also a policy document that considers the values, goals, and needs of the community. I encourage everyone to take time and review the budget, ask questions, and, of course, vote! Shelburne’s FY2016 budget is available for review on the Town’s website, in the Annual Report (which is also available for review on the website), and at the Town Offices.