Hampton finalizes preliminary 2013 budget

H ampton town officials were able to hold the line on discretionary spending but an increase in workers’ compensation will likely result in a tax increase for local residents.

The Board of Trustees made the final adjustments to its preliminary 2013 budget last week and is eyeing a 3 percent tax increase.

“The town tax rate would be zero percent but the problem is when you factor in the workers’ compensation levied by the county it made it 3 percent,” said Supervisor Dave O’Brien.

He said Hampton would still comply with the 2 percent tax cap because the increase in workers’ compensation is one of several allowable exclusions.

Officials expect to pay nearly $15,000 in workers’ compensation, double what the town had to pay last year. The increase is due to a $15,000 claim made three years ago.

That claim affected the town’s experience rating. The rating uses historic data to determine future risk and premium are adjusted accordingly. The more frequent, or the larger the claim is, the greater the risk and the higher the premium.

Hampton’s premium is expected to top out next year and will gradually begin to decline after that, assuming there are no more large claims. If by 2015 no additional claims have been made then the amount the town pays will decrease substantially, O’Brien said.

In order to make up for the increased expense of workers’ compensation, the town cut nearly $7,000 in expenses last month. And last Wednesday they made some additional cuts, including the elimination of nearly $3,000 that was earmarked for snow removal. O’Brien said the board examined the last four to five years of snow removal costs and identified that as an area it could realize a savings.

They also slashed the supervisor’s salary by $500 and decided against raises for its employees.

“The board feels the taxpayers are burdened enough without an increase in salaries,” O’Brien said.

However, many of the final cuts were offset by a $4,000 increase in health insurance costs, O’Brien said. The board also approved an increase of $2,500 for its fire department.

In July, the department asked for an additional $12,000 in funding to cover its operating expenses, which have increased over the last several years.

The department received $25,316 in 2012 and will receive $27,816 in 2013. The town also pays the Fair Haven, Vt., Fire Department just over $4,541 to cover Low Hampton.

A decrease in revenues also contributed to the board’s inability to offset the increased cost of workers’ compensation.

Total revenues were down nearly $11,612 compared to this year’s amended total because of the elimination of revenues the town receives when people re-mortgage their homes. And while the town will use $25,000 of its unexpended balance to offset the costs in its general fund, it will only use $5,200 of its unexpended balance to offset costs in the highway fund, a decrease of $19,800.

The total amount to be raised by taxes is expected to be $255,514. O’Brien said officials need to wait for the county to finalize its numbers before they can estimate the actual rate per thousand.

The preliminary budget will be presented during a public hearing at the town highway garage at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

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