Dorset sets $2.4 million budget for fiscal 2019

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DORSET — The Dorset Select Board presented a proposed $2.4 million municipal budget for fiscal 2019 on Tuesday night at a public hearing on the spending plan.

The budget represents planned expenditures of $2,418,634, with $1,980,172 of that sum to be raised in property taxes. The budget estimates a municipal tax rate of 28.35 cents per $100 in assessed property value — an increase of 0.45 cents per $100 in property value.

The board reaffirmed the previously approved budget by a 4-0 vote, as a few small corrections were noted and made during Tuesday's hearing. The board also approved the warning for Dorset's town meeting, which will be held March 5 at 7 p.m. at The Dorset School.

With a gathering of about 10 people inside the Town Hall meeting room thumbing through the seven-page handout detailing the spending plan, Town Manager Rob Gaiotti answered questions from the audience and the board.

A good part of the discussion centered on the number of voter appropriations on the budget and how they should be handled in the future.

In the past, Dorset allowed for non-profits to petition their way onto the warning for a three-year period, and then extended those year to year as long as the funding amounts sought did not change. But board member Tom Smith, pointing out that they make up a significant percentage of the budget, said he would suggest at town meeting that in the future, the town require appropriations in excess of $2,500 be petitioned yearly.

Most of the budget is level funded. Among significant changes are $95,000 for a town-wide property reappraisal —the first in Dorset in 14 years — and $25,000 for a summer trail building crew internship program for teenagers, through the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.

Dorset last underwent a statistical reappraisal in 2006, and its last full reappraisal was in 2003. Gaiotti said the appraisal will be handled in house, rather than by hiring an outside firm, and that state funds collected and saved over the years for such an occasion will pay for it.

Gaiotti said the $25,000 is intended as seed money to help fund the trail building initiative.

"We're feeling strongly that we want to continue the partnership," he said. "We've budgeted seed money to pay for to about four weeks worth of trail work and hoping we can go out and use some of that to match grants and donations."

Dorset resident Alan Sullivan asked about a $75,000 line item for a facilities fee paid to the school district, and whether that was expected to change once the merged Taconic & Green district takes over for the town district on July 1.

Gaiotti explained that it's expected the merged district will charge by the hour, and that a bill of $15,000 is expected. The town is hoping that the leftover money from that line item can be used to improve the condition of the playing field behind the school.

"Parents groups and coaches at the school have been talking about the possibility of doing something with that field," Gaiotti said Wednesday. "We're seeing this as opportunity to do that in last year of this particular line item. We're hoping to reinvest into the field."

Elsewhere in the budget, the public works equipment fund is seeking an increase of $10,000, to $155,000, for the expected replacement of a truck this year, and town's assessment to the Northshire Rescue Squad, formerly known as the Manchester Rescue Squad, has risen by $5,882, to $44,382.

Town employees will receive 3 percent raises, as previously approved by the Select Board. Gaiotti and administrative assistant Nancy Aversano are also receiving an additional 3 percent increase in return for taking on bookkeeping and management responsibilities for the Dorset Fire District water project.

The town meeting warning article approved by the board includes 22 articles, 16 of which are voter appropriations for non-profit agencies. The budget and the election of town officers will be conducted by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 6, with voting at The Dorset School.

Three of the town's five Select Board positions are up for election this year, including the three-year term held by board chair Henry Chandler and one-year terms held by vice chair Megan Thorn and Liz Ruffa.

Also on the warning is a non-binding resolution urging the state to more fully commit to its goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050.

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