By Chea Waters Evans, The Charlotte Bridge
The numbers are much higher than expected, it took everyone by surprise, and it showed up at the end of a long and already stressful year. No, it’s not omicron—it’s the Charlotte town budget.
Coming in at an estimated 30% tax increase over last year, the FY 2022/2023 budget’s major expenses are largely payroll related. The Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue budget alone is requesting increases in payroll and their capital reserve fund; their budget has the potential to surpass $1,000,000 this year. The rest is from salary raises for town employees, which have already been put in place and approved by the Selectboard, and are therefore not adjustable. (Though CVFRS serves the town, it’s a private corporation with its own governing board and budget.)
Aside from town-employee payroll expenses, the biggest budget item is usually Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Current figures—calculated in real-time during the Jan. 3 Selectboard meeting by SB member Matt Krasnow—show that on its own, the fire and rescue department’s $158,415 increase request is responsible for about 20% of the jump.
Selectboard Chair Jim Faulkner said in an interview with The Charlotte Bridge that he doesn’t support the CVFRS budget request. “The only way you can accomplish that . . . is a really big increase in taxes, and this increase in taxes is not acceptable,” he said. “This big bump in the tax rate is not acceptable. That’s a fact.”
CVFRS Board President Fritz Tegatz said he’s surprised that Faulkner isn’t supportive, since Faulkner has been privy to budget discussions as the SB liaison to CVFRS. He also said that he thinks the Selectboard prioritizes town employee salaries over CVFRS employees. “They automatically put their employees in place and just decided that we don’t necessarily need it,” he said. “I don’t know why the Selectboard chooses not to treat the fire department employees in the same manner that they do town employees, but they choose to.”
Much of the budget increase, Tegatz said, is part of a long-term plan to shift rescue staff from volunteer and per-diem to full-time. He said over the past year they have added three full-time paramedics, the cost of which is similar to per-diem employees as far as wages are concerned, but that benefits and workers’ compensation costs add up.
Tegatz said that $50,000 of the requested funds would go toward partially funding a manager for CVFRS. The company is currently run by a volunteer board of directors; a full-time employee would ease the management burden on the board. The rest of the money to pay for that position would come from the interest from CVFRS’s special-funds accounts.
The Charlotte fire and rescue budget for FY 21/22 was $933,246. In comparison, Shelburne’s fire and rescue budget for the same year was $698,330 and Hinesburg’s was $554,444.
More work will take place at this evening’s Selectboard meeting and in the coming weeks. “We’re not done final-reviewing the budget,” Faulkner said.
Republished the Charlotte Bridge