Andover voters to address alternative energy use, 4% hike in budget

 

By Cynthia Prairie

Andover’s Town Meeting will begin at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, March 1 at Andover Town Hall, 953 Weston Andover Road. Besides electing 12 town officers during a floor vote, Andover voters will also consider exempting from municipal taxes those net metered solar energy systems that are regulated by the state Public Service Board.

Andover Town Clerk Linda Bargfrede said that while the state has been making a “big push” for alternative energy sources, it also wants to tax them. But, she added, Andover would like to be more proactive in encouraging their use by not taxing them, although school taxes still will apply.  Towns are given the right to vote to exempt from taxes those types of “clean energy” systems outlined in state law (32 V.S.A. § 3845).

Andover, with a population of more than 450, also will be voting of a budget of $724,752, of which $555,669 is expected to be raised through property taxes and $168,500 will come from other sources. This year’s proposed budget is about 4 percent more than last year’s.

Within any budget, the biggest single item tends to be salaries and related expenses, such as health insurance.  Andover is no exception. With minor salary hikes from Town Hall to the Highway Department and significant hikes in health insurance costs over the 2012/2103 actual budget, the salaries and benefits portions of the budget have risen about $9,000 in each of the last two years.  The 2013/2014 actual budget is not yet in since that fiscal year hasn’t ended.

Utilities for Town Hall and the Highway Department are expected to stay flat compared with 2013/2014. Also for the Highway Department, highway materials and equipment costs are expected to drop significantly — by $16,600 — from what was actually accrued for 2012/2013.  However, the major snows the area recently has experienced, which will be part of the 2013/2014 budget year, could skew that budget line and make the 2014/2015 budget much leaner than what was spent in 2013/2014.

Under Assessments & Dues, the largest expense hike comes from something called Windsor County Tax. That item rose from $4,869 paid out in 2012/2013 and $4,700 budgeted for 2013/2014 to $12,133 budgeted for the coming fiscal year, a $7,433 hike.

Bargfrede said that also under Assessments & Dues, $25,000 is designated for Chester government services, including $2,200 for the Whiting Library, $19,000 for fire and ambulance and $3,800 for the Chester Recreation Department. The Chester-Andover Family Center has also been allocated $1,000.

Also on Saturday, Andover voters will be asked to choose a moderator, whose term ends June 30, 2015. Other positions to be voted on are a three-year term for town clerk, a one-year term for town treasurer and two one-year and one three-year terms for Andover Select Board. Bargfrede is the current town clerk and treasurer. She has been town clerk for about four terms. The Select Board positions up for a vote are currently held by Paul Stumpf (three-year) and Mark Gordon and Christopher Plumb (one year each.)

 

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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