Despite the holiday, it’s budget season again

As much as we may talk about keeping the spirit of Christmas all year long, it seems like budget season always lasts longer.

Yes, it’s that seemingly eternal infernal time of year again.

At the selectboard meeting on Oct. 24, five Charlotte departments kicked off the perennial process of making a list of expenses and revenues that will be checked much more than twice.

Town assessor John Kerr came with tidings of a rise in his budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year because of the town-wide reappraisal that is coming next year.

Kerr said the assessor budget is generally consistent from year to year, but during the reappraisal year he will need extra manpower “working on adjusting sketches and things like that, that we normally don’t do in a calendar year” that should cost about $10,000 more.

The department has the money for this increase in an accrual fund of about $70,000 which can be moved in the budget so the town won’t need to look for more money, he said.

Town clerk and treasurer Mary Mead suggested some adjustments to his budget and Kerr agreed to making those changes and resubmitting it.

Kate Kelly of the Lewis Creek Association came with a request for her organization to get the same $3,300 next year it had received this year. Of that amount, $600 is an unrestricted donation from the town. The remaining $2,700 funds work the organization does to fight invasive species like frogbit in Town Farm Bay and its water quality sampling program.

Likewise, Bill Regan from the Charlotte Trail Committee presented a level budget for the same $1,500 it received this year. The trail committee uses that money to do small-scale work and maintenance on town trails, pay for tools, print maps, provide dog waste bags at trailheads and send out a year-end donations letter.

“Our year-end donation letter last year brought in over $3,100, so it’s a good return on investment,” he said.

Regan thinks the trail committee has not asked for an increase in its budget for more than five years.

Jonathan Silverman, chair of the library board, said their budget request includes a slight increase for such things as energy, computer and tech support and custodial service.

Library director Margaret Woodruff said energy costs are anticipated to go up because the building is designated as a cooling center in summer and a warming center in winter, so maintaining a good temperature is important.

But the iteration of the library budget the library brought to the selectboard meeting did not include wages for staff. Selectboard chair Jim Faulkner asked to move the library budget to a meeting on Nov. 14, so that part of the budget can be included in the discussion.

Jon Snow, president of Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services, presented a preliminary budget formulated by its board, but a more formal budget discussion will come after a November meeting when all of the members will have an opportunity to vote on that organization’s budget request.

Snow predicted the fire and rescue service request will be 8.5 percent higher than its appropriated expenses of just over $890,000 for fiscal year 2023, which would mean an appropriation increase of more than $75,000, so the total predicted for 2023-24 is almost $966,000.

Last year’s fire and rescue budget was controversial and the closest vote among the separate budget articles approved at Town Meeting Day last March, passing with 57 percent of the votes cast on the issue.

Snow said the budget increase is mostly driven by personnel and personnel-related costs, including taxes, benefits and healthcare coverage for staff.

Workers’ compensation has become more expensive for the fire and rescue service because it has been working to cross-train members so that more are certified to work both emergency medical and fire calls.

“Regrettably, the one bad part of that is that they all have to have workers’ comp at the firefighter rate, which is much higher than the ambulance rate,” Snow said.