BENNINGTON -- Largely finalized, Bennington’s fiscal year 2014 spending plan is estimated to increase the town tax rate on the scale of about $0.027 -- or an additional $27 in taxes on a home valued at $100,000.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd gave the approximate figure at the end of Saturday’s budget meeting, which was the third and normally final weekend session for the Select Board as town officials work toward drafting Bennington’s next budget for voters.
Board Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. said the board had taken a hard look over those three sessions, balancing taxpayers’ ability with the need for a safe and secure community -- including maintenance of infrastructure.
The entire budget comprised of general, highway, and fire funds was estimated by Hurd to increase about 3.25 percent year-to-year, although board members left a few items for possible discussion between Saturday and when the town budget is presented to voters in March.
With Police Chief Paul Doucette unavailable to attend Saturday, Krawczyk said he was confident Doucette prepared his budget to follow up on continuing drug-related investigations after last week’s large-scale sweep.
"The police chief is a thorough guy," said Krawczyk. Doucette presented the Select Board with his police budget request one week earlier on Saturday, Jan. 12, indicating at that time imminent action locally in the effort to curb the sale and distribution of illegal drugs.
Last week’s roundup of alleged drug dealers was funded in part by state appropriations for that purpose, and Krawczyk said a future special session could be held if need be to evaluate a single line item for local drug investigations.
Select Board members on Saturday declined to add a ballot item of road work for voters to decide, which would have included reconstruction along Bradford and Safford streets for about $115,000. That work is tentatively scheduled for fiscal year 2015.
Board members said roadwork included in the 2014 budget -- a similar amount to last year’s -- was a good amount. "This is a pretty good list," said board member Jason Morrissey.
Replacement vehicles for the fire, police, recreation, and town highway departments were kept in the spending plan as requested. Hurd clarified that two highway department vehicle purchases would be single-axle dump trucks, replacing two similarly sized vehicles model year 2004. The trucks are used for plowing.
A Jan. 14 Banner article mistakenly referred to those trucks as "double-axle." Highway Superintendent RJ Joly said he had heard from residents concerned the town was purchasing more, bigger trucks. When the highway superintendent attempted to correct the mistake, Joly said he was told he was the one mistaken.