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Taxes stay at current level in 2014-15 plan

HOPKINTON — Homeowners would see no increase in property taxes in the 2014-15 budget proposed by Town Manager William McGarry. The tax rate on real estate would remain at $19.77 per $1,000 valuation. The motor vehicle tax would also remain the same, at $21.18 per $1,000.

The $24.4 million proposal is a reduction of about $100,000 from the current year. McGarry, who presented the budget to the Town Council on Jan. 28, said the town had benefited from a reduction of more than $250,000 in the amount it contributes to the Chariho Regional School District. The schools would receive about $18.2 million. Some of the reduction can be attributed to Hopkinton’s enrollment in the school district, which dropped by 14 students in the current year. The town will also receive an additional $93,000 in state aid for education.

“We got a real break this year from the schools,” McGarry said.

The town’s municipal budget would increase by $153,000, to a total of $6.1 million. Among the major expenses contributing to the increase in the coming fiscal year is $94,000 for police pensions.

“That’s the result of the recent retirements that we had,”McGarry said. “We had four people leave in 2012.”

Another factor is the 2 percent raise that town employees are scheduled to receive in the second year of their three-year contract. They received no raises in the current year.

The town’s proposed capital budget is $393,000, a reduction of $35,000. The budget calls for spending $77,000 for two new police cruisers, and the town is putting aside $180,000 for the Town Hall consolidation project, bringing the total fund to $1.2 million. The project is estimated to cost $1.6 million. The town wanted to borrow some of the funds so it could begin construction sooner, but that proposal was rejected by voters in 2012, so it will continue to transfer funds each year until the full amount has been set aside.

“We’re going to need at least one or two more years,” McGarry said. “We want to make sure we have a sufficient amount of money saved up.”

The town also plans to spend $45,000 on road resurfacing.

“We can’t afford to reconstruct or re-asphalt the road, so what we do is chip seal,” McGarry said.

The final major expense will be $60,000, the second lease payment on a new street sweeper. The town has already set aside $30,000. The Department of Public Works is determining which street sweeper the town should lease, and expense that could be more than $100,000, depending on the model.

The town’s current budget is the “alternative” budget, the 2011-12 budget that remained in effect after voters defeated the town’s 2012-13 proposed budget on June 11.

Town Council President Frank Landolfi said he believed the defeat of the town budget was a side effect of the fallout from voter dissatisfaction with the Chariho school budget.

“I think overall, last year essentially it was caught up in the Chariho demise,” he said.

Landolfi said he hoped residents who have concerns would attend the upcoming budget workshops.

“We have so many budget sessions, so if anybody’s concerned about a particular department or line item, they can certainly come and voice their opinions. It would certainly sway the council one way or the other if somebody felt strongly about certain budget items,” he said.

The town’s public budget workshops will take place at Town Hall today, Feb. 19, Feb. 24 and March 6 at 6:30 pm. The Financial Town Assembly will be on May 6 and the budget referendum on June 10.

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