Board Discusses Budget, Property Reappraisal

by Gazette Staff

WOLCOTT – At its January 4 meeting, the Wolcott Select Board discussed agenda topics ranging from the Helpsy bins to next year’s town budget and plans for a general reappraisal of town property values.
The first topic of discussion was the town budget. Select Board Vice Chair Kurt Klein led the discussion by giving an overview of the budget as it currently stands. A few variables remain such as the amount of the fund balance. Once those numbers are known, the board can finalize the budget at the January 18 meeting.
In the project manager report, it was reported that the town has received the annual Certificate of Highway Mileage. The report needs to be signed and returned to VTrans in February.

The Helpsy textile donation bins at the transfer station have been very popular. The litter committee chair will work with Helpsy to determine a regular pickup schedule.

Since guardrails have been difficult to obtain, the road foreman is obtaining quotes now with the hope to get commitments by spring.

Following up on a discussion the board had with Rep. Dan Noyes and Sen. Richard Westman last month, Klein put forth ideas on how the Town of Wolcott can seek to change the classification of North Wolcott Road so that federal dollars are available for maintenance. Current maintenance costs have a significant
impact on the town’s budget. A road study has been ordered through Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) for the spring that can provide data in support of changing the classification.
Klein spoke with Champlain Oil regarding their offer to sell to the town a parcel of land along Vt. Rte 15. Champlain Oil said the land had been appraised at $30,000 in 2007, and they are asking $45,000. The town has the land assessed at $16,000. Considering the small size of the parcel, that it is in a flood plain,
and the town is awaiting results of a brownfield test, the town feels an offer of $20,000 would be fair. The parcel could be used as a parking lot. An article can appear in the warning asking voters if the town should purchase the parcel for no more than $20,000. The board is continuing to research options for
the East Hill Road property that was obtained through a tax sale.

The select board members reviewed the names of officers to be recommended to the state for appointment. No changes were made.

The town received a check in the amount of $4,126.03 from the Sterling View Revolving Loan. Since these are not tax dollars, the board discussed where to place the funds. After discussion, the board voted to add the funds to the equipment fund.

The board discussed whether to pay the transfer station attendant for eight hours, as was done last year, for the New Year’s Day and Christmas Day holidays, even though the facility was closed. There is no policy for holiday pay for part-time employees. The board voted to give the transfer station attendant a $100 bonus check payable from the general fund since he was unable to work those two days.

Board members would like additional time to review and approve payroll and regular orders. Clegg will notify all employees that time sheets need to be submitted at town office by 10 a.m., on Mondays following the end of a pay period so they are available for review by noon. Time sheets received after 10 a.m. will be considered for the next pay period. Regular orders can be made available for review on opposite weeks from payroll.

Klein led a discussion with Tim Yarrow, president of Ballet Wolcott, regarding rental fees for Town Hall. Yarrow stated that enrollments are still down from historical levels, but the organization is financially in a better situation than they had been last summer. Given the circumstances, the monthly rental fee for Town Hall will convert back to $350 per month from the temporary $250.

The Town received the 2022 Equalization Study Results from the Vermont Department of Taxes. A Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) of less than 100% indicates that property is generally listed for less than its fair market value. The coefficient of dispersion (COD) helps make sure property values are fair. Typically, a CLA below 85% requires a Town-wide reappraisal. Lister Deb Klein noted that Wolcott’s CLA dropped from 91.46% to 85.7%. The COD went from 11.84% to 16.25%. Property sales during the pandemic years have wreaked havoc on Wolcott’s numbers. The tax department has notified 65% of Vermont towns that they need to do a reassessment. Wolcott has not been ordered to do so yet, but is gathering information on the limited number of appraisers that have been approved by the state. The listers are also seeking authorization from the tax department to update tables while waiting for the services of an appraisal firm.

The board also discussed articles that will need to be included in this year’s warning.