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Spencer’s 3.5-cent tax decrease unlikely

SPENCER — The potential for a 3.5-cent decrease in Spencer’s property tax rate declined Tuesday as the Board of Aldermen identified lingering needs in the town’s proposed 2019-20 budget.

The decrease would have brought the property tax rate to 62 cents per $100 in valuation compared to last year’s 65.5 cents. The 62-cent rate, according to Budget Officer John Sofley, would have provided just enough means for the town to make strides toward three top goals: downtown revitalization, employee retention and community outreach.

But according to Alderman Mike Boone, the budget did not address a number of other needs across many departments.

“We have a lot of needs, and I don’t see anything wrong, just like the other cities and municipalities, with keeping the rate where it’s at,” Boone said. “We have the same amount of needs as they do — maybe even more.”

Through discussion at a budget workshop Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen identified additional provisions to explore before final decisions on the budget are made. They include additional funding for the Historic Preservation Commission, salary increases for longstanding town staff members, an additional full-time Fire Department staff member and two new defibrillators for Fire Department use.

Boone said the Historic Preservation Commission had presented a need to develop informational materials for historic property owners in an effort to protect the town’s historic inventory.

The project, said interim Town Manager David Treme, would cost $1,800.

Boone also lobbied for a raise for the town librarian greater than the across-the-board 2% raise included in Sofley’s budget proposal.

The higher increase seems fair as she has not received a raise in the six to seven years she’d been working for the town, said Boone.

Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Hovis lobbied for equitable salary adjustments across all departments: “The consistency of salaries is important, just for morale purposes.”

Final costs to be refactored for consideration in the 2019-20 budget would benefit the Fire Department through a new full-time supervisory position and two defibrillators. Through salary and benefits, the position would cost about $40,000. The two AEDs would cost a combined $3,600.

Sofley said the identified needs could be refactored into the budget, but that additions would likely move the tax rate away from the proposed 3.5-cent decrease.

The proposed 62-cent rate was just a 10th of a cent higher than the town’s revenue-neutral rate of 61.9 cent.

The revenue-neutral rate was factored using an anticipated 2.5% increase in property valuations through the countywide revaluation this year.

Each cent increase in the proposed rate would generate an additional $20,000 in revenue, Sofley said, which could be used to address some of the identified concerns.

The board tasked Treme with refactoring Sofley’s proposal with these items in mind, setting a final meeting to vote on the budget at 6 p.m. June 27.

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