Municipal spending is going up in Morristown.
The budget proposal Morristown voters will consider Town Meeting Day, March 2, is nearly 5 percent higher than current spending.
The Morristown Selectboard approved a total municipal budget proposal of nearly $6.4 million at its meeting Monday. The budget — at $6,377,279 — is $288,374 more than the current one.
And, unless the board has a change of heart in the next few weeks, the proposal will go to voters for approval at town meeting.
The budget spike is being driven mainly by Morristown’s highway budget, which is up $311,000 — or 14.3 percent — to a proposed $2,485,323.
Town Administrator Dan Lindley pointed to two reasons for the jump: The village street department is moving into new digs on Old Creamery Road from its current spot in the old garage on Maple Street. The cost to lease the new garage is $96,350 per year.
“The new building is more expensive but it’s a much needed improvement,” Lindley said. The town had considered an upgrade to the former Maple Street location, which it owns, but decided that wasn’t feasible.
Along with new digs, the town wants to add to the town highway department roster. The selectboard budgeted for a 14th member of the department at an annual cost of $89,000, which includes salary, possible overtime and benefits. But depending on what benefits package a new hire chooses the total cost could dip below $89,000.
The new employee will likely work on both the village and town highway crews, Lindley said. He added that it’s been 27 years since the town last added a position to the highway department, and in that time the number of sidewalks and roads in Morristown has grown exponentially.
But with the expected increase in highway department spending, the selectboard worked over the last few months to decrease spending in other departments, Lindley said.
The town’s general government budget is down about $50,000 for a total of just over $2 million. Lindley said that savings was realized, in part, because the board is using money from a reserve fund to pay departing or retiring employees for their unused paid time off.
The budget increase was also partially offset thanks to an increase of almost $20,000 in anticipated non-property-tax revenues, which are being projected at $1,052,795.
The town is realizing some additional savings in the annual appropriations it makes to service agencies and non-profits. That figure is down $12,000 from last year, due entirely to the Lamoille County Youth Center withdrawing its request for funding.
The center decided to cancel its request because it still has much of last year’s appropriation on hand because many of its activities were canceled due to COVID.
The budget being proposed by the selectboard includes money to make two other new hires to replace departing town staffers. Both Lindley and his assistant, Erica Allen, are wrapping up lengthy careers working for the town.
Lindley leaves at the end of the fiscal year in late June, while Allen has already finished her time as a regular employee but is staying on board, helping to finish town reports and working remotely, until her replacement is hired.
The budget proposal includes money to pay for both new hires.
Applicants for Allen’s job must apply by Feb. 5. Lindley plans to help train his replacement once someone is hired, hopefully by mid June.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is changing how most towns across Lamoille County will hold March town meetings. Almost all town and school business will be done by ballot votes March 2, including local elections usually held from the floor.
Candidates don’t have to collect signatures of registered voters this year, due to COVID, but do have to file a consent of candidate form to their respective town clerk’s office. In Morristown, those forms are due back no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25.
In Morristown, candidates interested in being on the ballot can drop forms in the dropbox at the town offices, which remain closed to the public, or they can be mailed to the town clerk’s office at PO Box 748, Morrisville, VT 05661.
Contact Morristown Town Clerk Sara Haskins with questions at email@example.com.