B y Derek Liebig
The town of Hampton will consider a local law that would permit officials to override the state’s 2-percent tax cap.
The town is currently eying a 2.77 percent increase in the tax levy, which actually falls within the tax cap after taking into consideration allowable exclusions
With those exclusions, Hampton could increase its tax levy by 3.66 percent and still comply with the cap. And while the town’s preliminary budget is nearly complete, there are a number of factors that could push the tax levy increase above that figure, chiefly the level of funding for the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department.
The preliminary budget does not include an increase for the fire department and instead keeps funding constant at $27,813. The town, however, has offered the department a one-year contract worth $31,984, an increase of 15 percent.
If that offer is accepted by the fire department, the tax levy would increase 4.85 percent. That increase would be even more pronounced in fire protection district 1, which is covered by the Hampton department. The town cannot tax residents of fire protection district 2, which is covered by the Fair Haven, Vt. Fire Department, for services it does not receive.
The town board is also contemplating putting additional money into the highway department’s coffers for equipment repair. Officials have budgeted $57,000 for those repairs, a $1,000 increase above last year’s amount. In 2012, the town spent in excess of $54,000 on repairs, and with older equipment officials are trying to decide if they would be better suited increasing that number.
The cost of health care is also an unknown.
“Health care is a wild card for everyone,” Supervisor Dave O’Brien said. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen. I made some phone calls and the best they could say was to target 20 percent.”
As it stands now, officials have penciled into the preliminary budget $357,439 in expenses (this does not include the additional 15 percent the town has offered the fire department), nearly $62,000 in revenue and $33,000 from the town’s fund balance.
“I think we’ve cut as much as we can. I don’t think there is any more cutting we can do,” Herb Sady, councilman said.
Officials decreased estimate revenues to fall by more than $9,000, primarily because the town will no longer be able to capitalize on the sale of dump stickers (the county’s transfer stations are now under private management) and because the state has changed the way it reimburses towns for court fees.
The budget also doesn’t include much in the way of contributions to the town’s capital reserve funds.
“That’s one of my biggest concerns. The last two to three years we have not put any money in,” O’Brien said.
The total amount to be raised by taxes is $262,589, $7,075 more than last year. Factor in the fire department’s proposal and that number increases to $266,760, approximately $1,100 than the allowable tax levy under the 2-percent cap.
In order to exceed the cap, the town will need to pass a local law. O’Brien said even if the board passes the law, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will exceed the cap.
A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7.