By Michelle Fountain, Standard Correspondent
Woodstock voters defeated the proposed $6,040,323 town budget 48-91 at town meeting on Saturday. The proposed budget would have increased the amount to be raised by taxes by 10 percent.
Municipal Manager Phil Swanson said that the Select Board will work on a new budget and a special Town Meeting will be warned to consider that in six-seven weeks.
At Saturday’s town meeting, the Select Board did a brief slide presentation that compared the Woodstock tax rate to other towns in the state and outlined three main reasons for the budget increase.
“Woodstock is at the 20th percentile for the municipal tax rate…203 towns pay more in municipal taxes than we pay,” Select Board member Sonya Stover explained adding, “In our school district, only Killington has lower taxes than we do.”
Select Board member Jill Davies noted that the increased costs come from three primary areas: Necessary spending (energy retrofit, road and sidewalk repairs), salaries and benefits (1.8-percent increase but some are extra hours etc.) and saving for the future. Of the latter she explained, “What we have been doing in the past few years is incurring debt for purchases.” She said the town currently has $1.8 million in debt. “We’d like to spend more now to save on interest expenses,” Davies explained of the plan to put more money in the capital accounts to purchase rather than lease vehicles and avoid other loans.
However, voters did not agree. Tom Debevoise complimented the Board on their hard work but said he hoped voters would reject the budget for two reasons. “One is the change in philosophy on the capital budget. We never had a capital budget where we set aside the full cost for a purchase,” he said adding, “It is not true that you are really saving money.”
For the second, he noted that the town can borrow money at a lower cost than individuals. “If you get your tax bill and $35 of that tax bill is going to be set aside by the town, the only way you come out ahead is if you have no better use for that money by yourself and anybody who has a loan is going to come out behind…if they send the town $35 rather than paying down the principal on their credit card debt, they will never become even.”
Read the full report on Woodstock Town Meeting 2018 in the next edition of the Vermont Standard, coming out on Thursday, March 8.