Dorset Board sets budget

DORSET - The Dorset Select Board approved a town budget in a unanimous vote during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15. The budget is anticipated to increase the tax rate by 1.27 percent per $100 of assessed value, according to Town Manager Rob Gaiotti.

The approved budget calls for $1,381,324 to be raised by property taxes. The budget approved by voters last March required an almost identical amount to be raised in local taxes; $2,287 less than the new budget.

"The (select) board is always concerned with the level of property taxes, and has worked hard to keep the municipal property tax burden low in Dorset," said Gaiotti.

Dorset's tax rate is currently about $0.1783 cents per $100 of assessed value. Under the approved budget, the tax rate would be $0.1910. The increase in the tax rate is being driven by an anticipated decline in the town's Grand List, along with a smaller surplus that can be applied from the prior year's budget, than was the case the year before, Gaiotti said.

During the meeting Sandy Pinsonault, the Dorset town clerk, asked the Select Board to approve $10,000 for a vault restoration project which would be used to restore old town records dating back as far as the late 1800s. In a previous draft of the budget, the project was given allocated only $5,000. However, after further information given to the Select Board by Pinsonault, they decided to raise the fund. The vote was unanimous.

"We essentially have old grand lists from decades and decades ago that are still in their old form," Gaiotti said. "The town has been incrementally preserving those over the years. When those records are left out in the air they really start to deteriorate."

A major project that the town is looking into is paving Morse Hill Road, which connects East Dorset to Dorset. Paving of the road began last summer and Gaiotti said that the goal is to finish that paving this year.

"We are trying to pave Morse Hill Road, as much of it as we possibly can," he said. "It is basically the only road that connects the two sides of town, it is the most heavily traveled road in Dorset. We did a small portion of the road last year. We are hoping to take our funds and also apply for some state highway grant money to finish the project."

The fiscal year 2014 budget has a surplus of just over $180,000 being carried forward from 2012, most of which will be used to fund the paving project.

"We are carrying forward a surplus from 2012 and the majority of the surplus, about $150,000 of the $180,000, will be going towards the Morse Hill Road project," said Gaiotti. "The rest of the surplus goes towards reducing the tax rate for the next year."

The town will also provide the Manchester Rescue Squad with an additional $6,000 this year on top of the $12,000 the town provides on a yearly basis.

"The rescue squad is asking for an additional sum of money," he said.

"We currently give the rescue squad $12,000, which is embedded into the town budget, they get that regardless. The $6,000 will be a specific article to be voted on during town meeting."

While the town is experiencing a upsurge in home theft, the fund for law enforcement will not see a raise in this year's budget.

In fiscal year 2013 the town increased the budget for law enforcement by nearly $10,000 and Gaiotti said that the town is comfortable with the $60,000 the town currently provides.

"In fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2013 we bumped that fund up by $10,000 and we are still feeling pretty good about that number," he said. "That gives us extra patrols during the holidays and during the summer and stuff like that."

Dorset residents have recently created a community watch program to help local law enforcement combat theft in the area and Gaiotti said that the Vermont State Police are still working hard to prevent theft in the area.

Dorset Town meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 4.


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