Town tax rates determined
Littleton, Lincoln, Landaff preliminarily set rates
November 03, 2010
LITTLETON- The Littleton tax rate was preliminarily announced last week at $22.83, up $1.77 or 8.4 percent from this year. This translates into the owner of a $200,000 house seeing a $355 increase in his taxes.
"I'm not saying this is a rosy scenario here, but it could have been a lot worse," said Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Ron Bolt. Some estimates had the tax rate much higher.
Representative Brien Ward argued that the increase was too much for taxpayers in such harsh economic times, and Budget Committee Chairman Steve Kelly fears the extra $355 the $200,000 homeowner will pay will be money not being spent in the local economy. Still, town officials maintain they did everything in their power to keep the town's contribution to the tax rate – only one part of the equation – low. The county tax made up $1.10, up 5 cents; the state school tax $2.46, down 8 cents; and the local school tax $11.23, up 66 cents of the overall tax rate.
"I think everybody would like to provide tax relief, but a good portion is out of our control," said Town Manager Chuck Connell. "We are almost flat line on our budget, and we have the most control over that."
Bolt echoed the sentiment.
"I think the Board is sensitive to the economic situation we're facing," said Bolt. "There has been no growth in the budget, unless contractual." The town's portion of the tax rate is only $8.04, up from $6.90, said Bolt. This increase is not a result of irresponsible spending, but rather comes from a $50,000 loss in the town's tax base as a result of the TransCanada settlement, and the Board's decision to place $500,000 in overlay – $250,000 of that this year, he added.
The $250,000 will go towards replenishing the town's fund balance used as a backup account to avoid exorbitant debt servicing should the town face financial trouble. The Department of Revenue Administration recommends the fund balance be kept at 5 percent of the town budget, including the school and county payments. Littleton is currently well under that, at 2.5 percent.
"I feel we need that flexibility that the fund balance gives us," said Bolt, who finds the fund balance a very important fiscal tool.
Another factor in determining the town budget are the warrant articles which are brought forward by the town; entities outside the town's jurisdiction, such as the library, Park and Recreation, and debt service; and by residents themselves. Regardless of where the warrant articles come from, the ones that are ultimately funded are voted on and approved by the townspeople.
"People have been very generous in many of these warrant articles," said Bolt who added he thinks many of the townspeople have become desensitized to the true cost of warrant articles after a number of years where many infrastructure projects were approved, but whose effects are only now being fully felt.
Warrant articles approved this year include $240,000 for road repair, $125,000 for the town-wide revaluation, $50,000 to construct a new sidewalk, and a combined $113,000 to various social agencies. The town will not begin paying the TransCanada settlement until next year.
The Lincoln tax rate was preliminarily set last week at $9.20, up nine cents up from this year. The breakdown is as follows: town, $3.69; local school, $1.80; state school, $2.35; and county, $1.36. This translates into the owner of a $200,000 house seeing an $18 rise in their taxes.
"Everything was relatively flat," said Town Manager Peter Joseph. "It went up less than we were expecting. Joseph said the reason for the modest rise was a far better collection rate in outstanding taxes than expected by a couple hundred thousand dollars.
The unexpectedly small rise will give the town more overlay funds to place in its fund balance.
The Landaff tax rate was preliminarily set at $20.12 last week, down 39 cents from this year. The breakdown is as follows: town, $5.90; local school, $10.14; state school, $2.49; and county, $1.59. This translates into a $78 tax cut for the owner of a $200,000 house.
The tax rates of other towns will be covered in a story in next week's Courier.