Tax hike possible in Manchester's 2014 town budget
The proposed budget calls for $2,501,699 to be raised by property taxes. The budget approved by voters last year required $2,342,508 to be raised by taxes, about $159,191 less than the new budget.
In the early 1990s, Manchester established a reserve account called the Property Tax Relief Reserve Fund established for the direct purpose of providing relief to property taxpayers. That fund is funded from excess Local Options Taxes.
In recent years that fund as been tapped into and the Select Board does not want to drain the account any more.
"Here is the reality," said Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie. "Our reserve accounts have done what they were suppose to do, they carried us through a steep decline in our option tax revenues to a point where we know where we stand, we think we have a more predictable revenue stream there and it is increasing. So, now we need to reorganize if we are going to continue to deliver the level or service that we delivered up to this point."
Beattie continued to say that the only other option available to the Select Board is the property tax. The local option tax is not going to cover what it did five years ago and something else has to make up the difference, he said.
O'Keefe said that the Town has been waiting to stop pulling money from the reserve fund until the economy recovered, however they have seen the reserve fund dwindle while the economy has yet to fully recover.
"The property tax is increasing this year almost entirely because we are pulling off of a different funding source than that reserve fund," said O'Keefe.
According to O'Keefe, they will only be drawing $60,000 from the reserve fund this year. In comparison, last year the budget took $181,000 from the fund, a 67 percent decrease.
During the meeting Tuesday night, John O'Keefe presented a budget that added cuts to nearly all departments that ended up totaling near $34,000 which will lower the property tax.
"I think is a responsible approach," said Beattie. "Finding more areas within the budget to cut."
One topic of discussion revolved around the Manchester Marketing Initiative. Last year the initiative was budgeted at $16,000 and was set to be budgeted for the same amount this year. However, because of the financial crunch the committee directing the initiative said they would only spend up to $8,000 this year. With this in mind the Select Board will budget $15,000 for the marketing initiative next year. In order to spend any money at all the committee has to get it approved by the Select Board.
Other issues arose around the new park house. The Park House is responsible for 3.49 percent of the 6.8 percent property tax to make up the amount of debt, according to O'Keefe.
Unlike the previous building, the new Park House will be open year round and will have to account for heating costs during the cold winter months. However, because of the efficiency of the new building heating costs will actually decrease from $11,000 last year to $8,500.
The budget will be reviewed further with an eye towards it adoption at the Select board's next regular meeting on Jan. 22.
The budget will be voted on by the town's residents on Saturday, March. 2, during Town Meeting.
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