Shelburne Selectboard mulls over 2013-14 budget

By Heather McKim

What will the 2013-14 budget for the town of Shelburne look like? That was the question that the Selectboard pondered at its Jan. 15 meeting.

Representatives from various groups offered presentations to the Board regarding their organizations’ places within the budget.

Melissa Fletcher was the first to speak. She and Kip Roberson were present representing Pierson Library.

The current draft of the budget has the library set to receive a 2.8 percent increase over what it had in the 2012-13 budgetary year. That would bring the library’s budget to $263,000 for 2013-14. With the budget increase, the library would expand services for town residents. The children’s room would also be better staffed.

The fire department budget was also examined. While the department attempted to stay within the 2012-13 budget, there were some expenses that will need to be addressed.

Heavy rescue equipment such as cutters (i.e., the “jaws of life”) is slated to be replaced. The department is seeking to keep costs down to around $30,000 by outfitting just two of the fire engines and not making some of the needed upgrades in equipment.

Board members then turned to a controversial issue in recent months—streetlights.

Currently, streetlight policy is unclear and will be unfinished until after the 2013-14 budget is completed. Due to that fact, the Board does not currently have clear criteria before regarding the issue.

After some discussion amongst Board members, it was agreed that the $20,000 set within the budget for street lights was a reasonable number.

The budget for the Planning Commission was also addressed. The Board examined the issue of a form-based zoning study for which there had been proposals to put into the budget $15,000 for the purpose of supporting a study.

Members of the Dog Park Committee addressed the Board seeking $11,500 to have water run into the park. Currently, water must be carried into the park for canine visitors and there is concern about potential health risks.

That request is a one-time thing. Up until this point, the park had been quite successful in getting donations and sponsorships. However, the committee was unable to find someone to bear the cost of the work needed to run water into the park from across the road.

A neighboring farm will also need water as it expands its operations, so the cost for the work needed to run water into the park may actually be significantly lessened.

An item not currently in the budget was brought up by a representative of the Shelburne Museum. The museum is seeking a $5,000 donation—symbolic support—from the town for its $14 million art and education center project. This money could be paid over the span of five years.

Members expressed their support of the museum but stated some reluctance at the thought of spending taxpayer money in such a way. They said, however, that the issue would be a matter of deliberation.

Another issue that has garnered much attention has been the Social Services budget. The issue generated much debate among Board members and numerous comments from the small group of town residents at the meeting.

The questions of dollar amount, allocation, and whether the issue should be one of budget item or ballot measure were all debated.

No allocation was made at the Jan. 15 meeting, but the Board did decide that there will be a minimum of $40,000 for Social Services.

Members of the Shelburne Natural Resources and Lewis Creek Association were on hand to address the Board in regards to a need for funding to help to clean up invasive aquatic species. The project is a joint effort between the towns of Charlotte, which has been working battling the invasives for four years, and Shelburne.

The Selectboard broke away for executive session to address personnel matters before adjourning until the Jan. 16 meeting.

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