Selectboard takes first pass at FY2019-20 budget

By MADELINE HUGHES

The Shelburne Selectboard made a first pass at the municipal budget at a regular meeting Tuesday night. After listening to department heads and town committees last Thursday, the spending plans were synthesized into one town budget.

In the coming 2019-20 fiscal year, the town will start to pay off debt acquired through the new library and town center project, approved by residents in 2017.

Shelburne resident Tom Tompkins told the Selectboard that although he appreciates the board reining in costs, he hopes board members don’t defer maintenance to keep tax rates low. He added that voters approved the bond and should expect taxes to increase as debt increases.

Board members will comb through the proposed budget over the holidays, and Town Manager Lee Krohn will present another draft to the board when it reconvenes on Jan. 8.

“I haven’t even trimmed my tree, and you want me to trim the budget,” joked Selectboard member Mary Kehoe.

Working towards a budget, the Selectboard heard an update on costs for the library and town center project. Krohn explained that there is roughly $100,000 worth of unforeseen expenses for the library and town center project that will not be covered by contingency funds.

A month ago, the cost overrun was estimated to be roughly double that. Krohn said that surpluses in the current budget might cover those new costs, but that won’t be clear until the fiscal year ends in June.

“We know it’s out there, but it’s a partly wait-and-see and hope other funding sources come through,” Krohn said.

Ruth Hagerman, chair of the Pierson Library Trustees, also reported that two new rounds of soil testing came back from samples taken at the project site and they were deemed uncontaminated. Contractors for the project are testing soil at the state’s request.

“Basically all we can do is keep waiting for the state to tell us where to test,” Hagerman said.  She added that as digging stops and the project moves into the construction phase, there are fewer unintended expenses that can arise.

Other news

  • Jim Bragan, the town’s first recipient of the Colleen Haag Public Service Award in 2017, presented the Selectboard with a plan to present it next on Town Meeting Day in March.

Bragan is working with two other Shelburne residents, Bud Ockert from the Veterans Memorial Committee and Lisa Merrill from the Pierson Library Trustees. The Haag Award committee will start accepting nominations in January, and the committee will choose the recipient.

  • The Selectboard met in executive session about a potential real estate transaction.

Krohn, Finance Director Peter Frankenberg, Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet, Deputy Fire Chief John Goodrich, Rescue Chief Jacob Leopold and Deputy Rescue Chief Devin Major were included in the conversation.

The board adjourned with no decision from the closed-door session. Meeting minutes from the Dec. 13 budget meeting suggest a possible real estate acquisition for a combined fire and rescue facility.

“An old issue may be revisited, studying how and whether the fire station could expand or move elsewhere to a more appropriate and functional location; likely a joint, shared facility with Rescue, perhaps replacing two buildings that need work with one shared station. All Chiefs agree on the concept,” the meeting minutes state.

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