With the new year already underway, Waterbury is still sorting out its town budget for 2020, and construction costs are a major concern.
The town needs an additional $325,892 to pay for sidewalk repairs, bridge work and Waterbury’s small share of Main Street reconstruction — state and federal funds are covering nearly all the costs.
The town also needs $382,228 for paving, lots of paving.
The select board will ask town meeting voters to approve a $300,000 loan to help cover those costs, and raise local property taxes to cover the rest. That increase would be about 4 cents per $100 of property — $80 on a $200,000 house — a tax-rate increase of more than 6 percent.
William Shepeluk, municipal manager, proposed borrowing $393,000 and raising the tax rate no more than 3 cents, but the select board members decided “they wanted a 4-cent tax increase, and they wanted less borrowing.”
“It’s going to be painful,” said Chris Viens, select board chair.
Paving is budgeted at $500,000 for 2020. It wasn’t a focus for previous boards, and he said the town has a lot of catching up to do. Viens supports the high paving budget, but says investing in quality work now will save the town from expensive overhauls of roads in the long run.
“I’m trying to bring all that to a manageable point,” he said. He estimated it would cost $1.4 million a year for seven years to get all roads to top standards.
“That is inconceivable,” Viens said. “We’re still not where we should be, but we’re closer than we were.”
As for the rest of the proposed budget, there are a few ups and downs but it’s mostly business as usual.
• Parks and Recreation was over budget in a few areas, but new revenues from an expanded summer camp and lots of pool-goers gave the department a surplus of more than $10,000. Adjustments this year include an increase in summer and basketball camp fees and daily group rates for the pool.
• The Fire Department was $20,586 under budget for 2019. Shepeluk cited a low call rate — good news for the budget and for property owners. A 5 percent increase in 2020 will help cover maintenance work on the Main Street fire station and provide $48,000 to replace four sets of outmoded breathing equipment.
• The Legislature boosted certain clerical fees last July 1, and as a result municipal fee revenue was $14,315 high than expected.
• The planning department was under budget for 2019, and is requesting a marginal increase for 2020.
• The highway department was almost 2 percent over its 2019 budget, mainly for salt and employee overtime. The 2020 budget is up almost 4 percent, mainly for pay and workers compensation.