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By Warren Select Board
Dear Townspeople of Warren,
This letter is an attempt to provide some clarity about the tax rate for the year 2013.
First: At Town Meeting and at all the publicly warned budget meetings leading up to Town Meeting, the select board made it very clear that we were increasing the town budget significantly, or 32 percent. Specifically we said that much of the increase was due to road projects that had not been done in the past and that we believed were essential to our road safety and continuing maintenance of the roads overall. The opportunity to veto line items, including the Inferno Road and Plunkton Road paving projects and the West Hill slump stabilization project, was given, but a vote on the budget passed with a clear majority.
Second: The town portion of your tax bill is the only part that the town has any control over. Therefore, it is impossible for us to know in advance what the total tax rate will be. However, based on the fact that we voted on a higher budget, it logically follows that the tax rate would increase.
Third: Two years ago, the select board made the decision to lower the tax rate due to the fact that we as a board felt that it was not the town's job to accumulate money for non-defined future projects. If we had maintained the old rate, this year's increase would not have been as large a percentage. We stand by that decision to keep the money in the taxpayers' control until needed and agreed upon by the town as a whole.
Fourth: Our tax rate is in line with the state average. You will not be paying less elsewhere!
Fifth: All of the select board members live in town and also pay taxes! We are not exempt from any of the tax requirements.
Below is an exhaustive analysis of the data as it relates to the above points. Please read through it before forming an opinion. Also, please treat the town employees with respect and allow them to do their jobs. They do not set the budget, the select board does, and all members are willing to talk to townspeople about this matter.
Town meeting does not easily address tax rates, but it does set the foundation for the money the town needs to raise to cover municipal operations for the fiscal year.
In March at Town Meeting, the municipal budget was approved by the voters present. The budget approved at that time was for $3,879,956, which includes two amendments totaling $11,000. This was an increase over the prior year of 32 percent. This is part of the answer.
Another factor in calculating the tax rate is the amount of money the town receives from non-tax generated sources, such as grants, state highway allocations and fees. For the 2013 tax calculation, it is estimated we will receive in total $738,211 from non-tax-generated sources putting the net amount needed to be raised at $3,141,745.29. In the prior year, the town received $893,184 in non-tax-generated sources, which is a 17 percent difference. In 2012, the town needed to raise $2,035,015 through the municipal tax rate, a difference of $1,106,730.29, or a 54 percent increase from the prior year. Another part of the answer.
The last component in the calculation is the Grand List, which is generated by the town listers, elected officials of the town. The Grand List in its simplest form is the taxable value of all the property in the town. The listers spend the year monitoring property sales and reviewing properties to try and maintain the list to as close to market value as is possible. The state reviews all towns' Grand Lists and determines their accuracy by issuing a CLA adjustment for each town. Warren's CLA adjustment for 2013 is 103 percent, 100 percent being perfect match between market and appraised value. The most current Grand List is $7,081,768.36, down $109,513.39 from last year's Grand List of $7,191,281.75, a 1.5 percent drop. The last part of the mathematical calculation component of why the actual tax rate increased 76 percent.
If we kept all things constant from last year except spending, the tax rate would have been $0.42, not much difference from $0.44. Thus, real impact of the tax rate comes from spending; the highway component, including bridges, of the town budget makes up most of the spending increase over last year's budget, $802,514, a 63 percent increase. There are many elements to this budget component and most are in line with the previous year, with the exception of oil – price increase, chloride – price and use increases, used for dust control on dirt roads, erosion control – mandated by state guidelines – and the two significant line items the select board added were the West Hill Road slide repair and the Inferno Road rebuild. These two projects totaled $836,809, 75 percent of the increase in funds needed to be raised by tax generation. These were line items identified and discussed in detail at Town Meeting.
In summation, it isn't without very serious consideration of the impact of all taxpayers within the town that the select board sets the tax rate. It also has given equal consideration to protecting the infrastructure that the town has invested millions of dollars. The choice this year to deal with two heavily traveled roads that had serious need of repair for safety as well as minimizing future sizable expense was well thought out by the board and those thoughts shared at Town Meeting.
Warren Select Board