By Cristina Kumka
Castleton’s new Town Manager Mark Shea presented a final budget to the Castleton Select Board Jan. 26 that showed a general fund increase of 3.5 percent over the prior year, for a total budget of $2,935,318 for fiscal year 2015-2016. That increase boils down to $102,416 more spending than the prior year.
But what Shea didn’t include in the general fund was an extra $312,420 the town hopes to spend on a new police station attached to the fire house on Route 30 now under construction and security for it.
Those two extra proposals, to be voted on by ballot March 3 by town voters, would increase the overall spending plan by 15 percent over last year. Additionally, there will be special appropriations for nonprofit groups to be voted on individually.
At the Select Board meeting, Feb. 9, Town Manager Mark Shea broke the news that town taxes wouldn’t go up any further to build a new $300,000 police station. But, voters needed to approve two specific articles of more than 50 questions on the Town Meeting warning to make that happen.
That’s a far cry from what Shea had originally presented: in addition to tax increases from the general operating budget of the town up 3.5 percent for 2016, the new police station would cost taxpayers $17 more each quarter. The police station could now cost the town nothing, Shea said.
The police station would become a tax-free, one-year expense as an addition to the new fire station development because of two checks presented to the Board by the school supervisory union business manager for the sale of town-owned school buses.
The $322,018 due to the town was questioned by a resident at the prior Select Board meeting and at Monday night’s meeting, the school business manager came bearing the money.
The money can only be used to “buy down” the municipal tax rate, according to an agreement reached between the state and the school superintendent.
Shea, however, is asking voters to first approve an article on the warning for this coming Town Meeting Day that allows the Select Board to use the money at their discretion and second, to approve the construction of the new police station. Those articles are Article 50 and Article 52, according to the warning approved last month.
The Select Board adopted the general fund budget Jan. 20 and unanimously adopted the final town meeting warning Jan. 26.
Revenues for the new budget are down 1.1 percent, according to Shea—with the town carrying over a $15,818 deficit from the prior year, eliminating a $42,000 grant for police, a $35,070 gap in revenue from the transfer station and a lack of revenue coming out of the recreation department.
Total revenues for the next fiscal year are expected to be $52,000 more, according to the budget.
Expenses are up in the police department by seven percent, the fire department is up by about 59 percent due to the new fire station bond payment, and the public works department is up by 14 percent.
The Board removed a new $20,000 expense for economic development from the budget.
The town is also expected to earn new revenue from the town’s historical society. At a special meeting Feb. 2, the Select Board voted to finalize an agreement between the town and the society to sell the old town office to the society once and for all.
Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times, [email protected]