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Mason operating budget up 3 percent

MASON — Following the first of two scheduled budget hearings, one of which was held Jan. 15, the proposed town budget for 2013 is $1.7 million, 3 percent more than the $1.6 million budget approved by voters last year.

One of the highest increases in the budget comes at the request of the Police Department. The 2013 police budget is proposed at $303,329, a 6 percent increase. Fuel costs for the police cruisers and salary increases make up a portion of the increase, according to a detailed breakdown of the proposed budget. A jump in retirement fund costs, which is determined by the state, also accounts for the additional money requested.

Another expense for the Police Department in the coming year has not been factored into the budget yet, according to the town’s Administrative Assistant Barbara Milkovits. The department is planning on installing a fence to secure an area for outside storage of evidence that will not fit inside the police station, such as commandeered vehicles. The cost of the fence has not been determined, she said.

The total budget for public safety, which includes the Police Department, ambulance, Fire Department, building inspector and emergency management, is a portion of the budget poised to increase in the coming year, too. The three departments are asking for 10 percent more this year for a total of $440,767, up from $401,995 in 2012. A large portion of the increase — nearly $20,000 — is due to an increase in the communication’s budget.

The town is seeking to change dispatch services, according to Milkovits, explaining what the additional communication budget money would be used for. The amount is based on pricing options the Select Board has looked into, she said. The town will not enter an agreement with a new dispatch service until later this year, so the entire $20,000 will likely not be expended this year, and what is left over will be returned to the town.

The budget for highway and streets is proposed to increase by two percent, from 566,320 in 2012 to $575,684 in the coming year. Vehicle fuel, equipment and building maintenance contributed to the increase, but the largest increase in the highway and streets budget came from an $8,000 increase to continue paved road restoration, according to the budget.

The budget for the town’s personnel administration is up this year, from $217,878 in 2013 to $229,783, a five percent increase. The increase is attributed to increases in health and dental insurance.

The proposed operating budget also includes several requests for additions to capital reserve accounts. The Police Department is requesting $9,000 for the capital reserve for the replacement of the department’s cruisers; the Fire Department is proposing to add $10,000 to the capital reserve for a building addition; the Highway Department is requesting $14,815 for the capital reserve account to maintain the department’s barn and garage.

Other areas of the proposed operating budget are down this year. The request for funds to replace machinery, vehicles and equipment has been cut in half. Last year, the Highway Department requested $55,500 for a replacement truck and stainless steel sander. This year, replacing Fire Department equipment and the Police Department’s firearms will only require $23,825.

The second budget hearing will be held Tuesday at the Mann House at 7 p.m.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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