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Voters to Decide on Municipal, School Budgets

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By Tom Brown

Property tax bills on a home valued at $228,000 would increase by about $190 if Montpelier voters approve all of the municipal and school spending proposals on the Town Meeting Day ballot.
The FY2020 municipal budget is just over $14 million, of which $9.8 million is to be paid by property taxes, an increase of 4.2 percent over FY2019 (see details in this issue’s City Page). That increase assumes that voters also approve a separate request of $350,471 to fund Kellogg-Hubbard Library, and the combination would raise taxes on a $228,000 property, the average value in Montpelier, by $91.66.
The municipal budget proposed by the City Council includes the equivalent of 5.25 additional city employees, two of which were added to the payroll in FY2019 and are included in the budget for the first time. The proposal also includes funding for a full-time police officer, a 0.75 full-time equivalent (FTE) facilities director that would likely become full-time in FY2021, a full-time tree management position to work on the emerald ash borer problem and other issues, and a 0.5 FTE parks worker who would likely become full-time in FY2021.
“I’m grateful for all of those who weighed in on the budget,” Mayor Anne Watson said. “This budget is forward looking, anticipating upcoming challenges like the emerald ash borer, street replacement, and facility management. We’re proactively planning to replace some water lines, something I know has been on many people’s minds.”
School Proposal
Montpelier-Roxbury School District officials are asking voters to approve an overall budget of $24 million, an increase for Montpelier residents of 2.6 percent over FY2019. That figure includes a $260,000 capital fund request for bathroom improvements at Montpelier High School. The school budget also includes funds for new full-time positions for a human resources manager and a social and emotional learning coordinator, as well as $120,000 to provide busing services for students at Main Street Middle School. However, the net cost will be eventually offset by $48,000, as the state reimburses school districts at 40 percent of their transportation expenses.
If both items are passed, it would add a maximum of $98.04 to the property tax bill on a home appraised at $228,000. The actual increase would likely be lower than $98 because most taxpayers benefit from the state’s income sensitivity program, in which taxpayers who earn less than $147,000 pay education taxes based on their income rather than the home’s assessed value.
This is the first budget proposal for new Superintendent Libby Bonesteel and the second since the city merged with the Roxbury School District under Act 46.
“I want to personally thank Grant Geisler, our business manager, for guiding me through this budgeting process in my first year as superintendent,” Bonesteel said. “His clarity, guidance, patience, and knowledge is second to none. This budget sets the groundwork for system-wide development in the years to come. We look forward to using our financial resources to build upon our already promising school system.”