ST. ALBANS TOWN — Voters in St. Albans Town have some expenditures to approve when Town Meeting Day rolls around on March 2, including whether or not to approve a $5.1 million budget and whether or not to approve a short-term loan for a new town hall.
The selectboard on Wednesday approved the proposed budget to be voted on, and indicated the final language for the Town Meeting warrant articles would be decided Friday. At that same meeting, the board voted unanimously to have the town clerk mail out ballots to every registered town voter, taking advantage of a recent law that gives municipalities flexibility in how they conduct town meeting as the state continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an announcement from the town, residents will be able to mail ballots back, drop them off at Town Hall or vote in person at the Collins Perley Sports Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Town Meeting Day. Ballots are expected to go out Feb. 10.
Here are three expenditures residents will be asked to approve on March 2:
1. $5.1 million budget
Voters will be asked to authorize the selectboard to spend an estimated $5,195,068 for general expenses, with $4,422,592 to be raised by taxes. This budget is up from last year’s $4,663,258 budget.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Selectboard Chair Brendan Deso said the budget would bump up the tax rate an estimated 2 or 3 cents per $100 property valuation.
“In the middle of a pandemic, for having to take a 60% increase on our police line, it’s not a bad budget,” Deso said during the meeting.
That 60% increase brings the proposed law enforcement budget to $1,208,868, up from $857,887 the previous year.
Much of that cost is attributed to a police contract the town signed with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department (FCSD) following a request for proposals initiated in May 2020. The FCSD and St. Albans City Police Department (SAPD) both put in proposals for the contract, as SAPD had provided coverage for the town previously.
According to a powerpoint citing both RFPs, a revised contract from SAPD would have cost the town an estimated $7.1 million over five years, while the updated FCSD contract would cost an estimated $6.2 million.
The proposed parks budget would also increase $20,000.
“We realized this year that every investment we make in our parks is well taken and we’re getting a big bang for our buck, so we’re continuing to invest there,” Deso said.
2. Use of fund balance
While the proposed budget is an increase on last year, voters will have an opportunity to somewhat knock back some of the tax bite.
Article 3 asks whether voters would authorize the board to use up to $250,000 from the prior year general fund balance to reduce taxes for the next fiscal year.
3. Town hall funding
Article 4 asks voters whether or not to authorize the board to spend up to a certain amount of money using infrastructure development funds generated by the local option tax to pay for impact fees and a short-term loan to construct a new town hall to be located near 576 Georgia Shore Road.
The warrant article follows a vote in November in which residents approved $400,000 in local option tax revenue to be spent on predevelopment and land purchase expenses for the project.
Replacing St. Albans Town’s 120-year-old town hall has been a longtime goal for officials, with officials regularly stressing both the limited space and accessibility issues presented by their current home in St. Albans Bay.
The new hall envisioned by town officials would see a single-story building placed on a property near Georgia Shore Road.
According to Deso, the total project cost is roughly $4.5 million — $2 million to be paid with cash on hand, and $2.5 million to be borrowed on a 15-year loan.
Deso said in an interview Monday that funding for the town hall will come from the town’s 1% local options tax, and won’t increase property taxes. He said the town makes roughly $850,000 per year in local option tax revenues.