After much work and tough cuts to some desirable programs, the Hinesburg Selectboard approved a proposed town budget with almost $4.2 million in expenses on Wednesday, Jan. 29. They also approved a strategy for ambulance service to send to the voters at Town Meeting. If approved, this budget will be a 5.85% increase over the previous year’s budget expenses of more than $3.9 million.
The largest chunk of the Hinesburg’s proposed budget, almost 25% or over $1 million, would go to highway expenses. The second largest expense, if the budget is approved, will be for the police department at 14.5% of the budget or more than $600,000. Fire and rescue is next with budget expenses of over $430,000.
“Our tax rate in FY20 was 0.5296. The proposed tax rate is 0.5579, so the difference is just over 2.25 pennies,” Hinesburg Town Administrator Renae Marshall told the selectboard.
Marshall said this means, for the taxes on a $200,000 home, the difference in a year will be $56.62 more for the coming fiscal year, if the budget is approved by town voters. The increase for a $300,000 home will be $84.95, and for a $400,000 home it will be $115.26 more than it was in fiscal year 2019-20.
Based on the selectboard’s projections, Marshall said, the municipal portion of tax rate for fiscal year 2020-21 for a $200,000 home is $1,115.81, for a $300,000 home it is $1,673.70, and for a $400,000 home it is $2,231.60.
The municipal portion of the Hinesburg tax rate is around 25% of a homeowner’s tax bill. The other 75% of the tax rate is school taxes.
Selectboard members update
The meeting started with the selectboard making sure that it had five members because of questions about Aaron Kimball’s resignation.
With a three-year term that would end March 2022, selectboard member Aaron Kimball intended to resign on Town Meeting Day, when his replacement could be voted in. This plan was intended to give voters the choice on his replacement, rather than having the selectboard choose.
However, Town Clerk Missy Ross checked with the Secretary of State’s Office, Elections Division, and found a regulation prohibiting that plan because there cannot be an appointment, or even an announcement of an open position, until the person holding the position has actually resigned. As a result, Kimball resigned a couple of days before the Jan. 22 selectboard meeting.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the selectboard unanimously approved Kimball to serve until Town Meeting, Monday night, March 2.
Michael Loner is running unopposed for the two years remaining on Kimball’s three-year term.
Incumbent Tom Ayer is running against challenger Jeff Tobrocke for a two-year term on the selectboard and incumbent Merrily Lovell is challenged by Michael Bissonette for a three-year term.
Town voters to decide ambulance future
After more than two and half hours of discussion about whether Hinesburg should contract with another ambulance service (or services) to cover the town or whether the town should start its own ambulance service, the selectboard took a break, during which all but a handful of people left.
After a more brief conversation than had taken place before the break, the board added two articles to the warning for Town Meeting Day. One which, if approved, would authorize the selectboard to spend up to $94,870 to obtain town-wide ambulance service. The other article would authorize the town to hold a vote by Australian ballot in November to determine Hinesburg’s long-range strategy for local ambulance service.
These articles about ambulance service, along with ten other articles concerning the budget, will be decided by voice vote from the floor at Town Meeting.
Ross and Marshall said an item requires approval as a warned article approved by voice vote at Town Meeting in order to be added to an Australian ballot vote in the future.
Members of the selectboard have said repeatedly that they want to have firm budget figures about the start-up cost and long-range costs of having a town ambulance service. They would like to have these figures compiled in time for a fall ballot vote.