ST. ALBANS CITY : Council eyes indebtedness

MS4 work begins with Town, NRPC

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Staff Writer

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The Facts

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ST. ALBANS CITY — The St. Albans City Council heard from the city’s financial staff about the city’s level of indebtedness at a special Monday night meeting in which the council also addressed a number of routine matters.

Although the state allows municipalities to incur indebtedness up to 10 times their grand list, the city’s financial policies limit indebtedness for the general fund to half the size of the grand list, explained Sarah Duffy, the city’s accountant. This year that is $2.44 million. The city currently has $1.39 million in debt for the city itself, excluding the water and wastewater funds. That places the city’s debt level at 28 percent of the grand list.

The city will make $560,000 in loan payments this year, including the bond for the tax increment financing district. It will make final payments on four loans. A fifth is for work on the Federal Street project, and will be renewed until design work is complete and the city is able to collect federal grant funds that will pay for the bulk of the work.

In total, the city will cease making $174,000 in loan payments this year with the payoff of the library bond, the loan for the Little League field, a tax anticipation note from several years ago, and a fire truck loan.

The creation of a capital improvement plan in the city initially led to a slight increase in debt, said Duffy, but that will even off in the future as the city begins to use reserve funds to pay for capital improvements and equipment replacement. “In the future, you will see that level off as we do have reserve funds,” she said. The reserve funds are part of each year’s budgets.

Annual debt payments for the water department will be $341,000 this year, with only a small truck loan scheduled for final payment within the next few years.

The wastewater fund will repay one loan this year, with a payment of $108,000. In total, the wastewater fund will make $381,000 in debt payments this year.

Debts owed by the water and wastewater funds are paid from user fees paid by the users of the water and wastewater systems.

The council also approved a memo of understanding with St. Albans Town and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) for the creation of a regional stormwater education program. City staff has been working with town counterparts on this project.

The program is intended to meet the public education obligations of both the city and town under the municipal separated stormwater system (MS4) permit. Both municipalities have been subject to the permit since October.

The education program is modeled after a similar effort in Chittenden County where municipalities subject to the MS4 permit have pooled resources into a single education program, explained Chip Sawyer, the city’s director of planning and development.

Under the agreement, the city and town will each contribute $5,000 to education efforts, which will be handled by NRPC.

Monday’s meeting may have been a precursor to a change in the council’s meeting schedule. Currently, the council meets once per month in a session that often lasts until 9 p.m. or later. Mayor Liz Gamache suggested the council two shorter meetings per month.

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