Meeting yesterday morning at 9 AM, the selectmen set the tax rate for the coming year at $10.43 per $1,000 assessed property value. That’s a $.04 increase from last year. The tax rate would have gone up $.10 but the selectmen took $100,000 from the undesignated fund balance to offset the increase. (Another way to keep the tax rate steady — or even lower it! — would be to lower spending.) The town portion is $2.91, up $.02 over last year. The selectmen took no input from members of the public before or after their vote on the tax rate.
On Friday, October 14, the selectmen will have a meeting at 9 AM, when most residents are unable to attend due to work schedules. That is especially troubling because the selectmen will be setting the tax rate for the coming year, something that will affect all taxpayers. The selectmen will also be reviewing budgets for:
- 4210 Police Department
- 4324 Transfer Station
- 4194 Transfer Station Building
- 4312 Highway Department
- 4240 Building Inspection
- 4150 Financial Administration-Tax Collector portion
- 4442 Direct Assistance
At the October 4 budget committee meeting Direct Assistance was a topic of discussion. Board member Tyler Philips expressed his belief that it was “stupid” to reauthorize $35,000 for Direct Assistance for next year when so far this year the town has spent approximately $1,200 (of the $35,000 that was appropriated).
According to last year’s town report, in 2015 the town appropriated $45,000 for Direct Assistance, but the actual amount spent for that year was just $4,890.
What happens to the money that is appropriated for Direct Assistance but not spent on Direct Assistance? It remains in the general fund where it is then spent on other things in following years, instead of on people who are in need. If we are appropriating money for people in need, then it’s my opinion that that money should be used only for people in need. If it is not spent on that purpose, then the left over money should be returned to the taxpayer in the form of a credit on property tax bills.
The selectmen are conducting an auction on October 15, 2016, to sell town-owned properties. The auction is being conducted by Rick Sager, their attorney. Sager will be receiving a commission on the sales. It’s possible that, as the selectmen’s attorney, Sager might advise the selectmen, either in the past or the future, on which properties to seize for non-payment of property taxes.
The selectmen are refusing to come clean about when and how they determined the final list of properties to be sold at the auction. The meeting minutes do not show any recorded vote, according to town resident Sue Weeks, who raised concerns at last week’s selectmen’s meeting that two of the properties are on roads that aren’t currently maintained. Her concern is that if the properties are sold and developed, the town will be required to maintain the roads, and in the long run the cost will far outweigh any benefit that the town will get from either the sale at auction or the property taxes.
At their meeting on December 28, 2018, the board of selectmen transferred $10,000 out of the Direct Assistance budget into the General Government Buildings-Town Office Improvements budget. The Direct Assistance budget is intended to be used for welfare. Low income town residents can apply for heating assistance, for instance. The selectmen have decided to use those funds for new doors at the Town Offices. It was a unanimous vote.