Budget windfall helps town set lower tax rate

Before any discussion of the town’s budget or the tax rate, selectboard chair Jim Faulkner wanted to get something straight, right off the bat.

At a special meeting of the selectboard on Aug. 22, Faulkner responded to suggestions he’d heard that the selectboard was going to add some amount to the budget.

Taxrate calc for FY23-24-approved

“I just want to be clear,” Faulkner said. “We don’t have the authority to do that. Not only that, if we had the authority to do that, we would not be doing it. This is the taxpayers’ money.”

It is clear, he said, that the taxpayers have spoken and the selectboard must use the budget that was approved by voters: “They said, ‘No more, no less.’”

The selectboard set 0.1804 as a total municipal tax rate. Last year, the tax rate was 0.2421. So, it looks like this year’s taxes will be lower, right?

Not so fast: Just because the rate is lower, doesn’t mean your taxes are necessarily going down. Because of the property reappraisal, your property value may have gone up and with it your tax assessment.

Just because “the rate is low don’t let that make you think you’re going to a pay less because that’s not the case,” Faulkner said.

The municipal portion of the property tax on a property valued at $500,000 will be $902.00 ($5,000 x $0.1804), said town administrator Dean Bloch in an email.

Whereas last year the grand list, or 1 percent of the total taxable property value, in Charlotte was almost $9.5 million, Faulkner said, this year, after the property reappraisal, the grand list had risen more than $4 million to over $13.7 million.

The budget had an eleventh hour reprieve before the final setting of the tax rate — just that day the town had an $88,000 paving grant come in. The grant was booked as a deferred grant liability, town clerk Mary Mead said, but because it came in before Aug. 31, the town was able to “back it out” as a deferred liability and book it to revenue as a paving grant.

“We aren’t always able to budget grants as a revenue for the year that they actually come in,” Mead said.

The vote approving the tax rate was three votes for and one abstention. Board member Kelly Devine was absent and Louis Mudge joined late by phone from out of the country, hustling up a mountain to get reception. Mudge had missed most of the budget discussion, so he abstained from voting.