Greenfield discusses 2020 warrant, keeps ambulance costs at lower rate

  • Greenfield Select Board members discuss the 2020 warrant with voters on Wednesday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/6/2020 1:36:09 PM

Despite a request from Temple Selectmen that Greenfield increase its budget for ambulance services by about $20,000, Greenfield Selectmen left that budget line item unchanged during its budget hearing Wednesday night.

When discussing specific budget line items at the hearing, Select Board Chairwoman Margaret Charig Bliss said that the town’s ambulance costs decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Right now, we have a deal and we’re happy with it,” she said, but indicated the lower cost may not continue.

Wednesday afternoon, Town Administrator Aaron Patt told the Ledger-Transcript Greenfield would still be budgeting $57,800 for ambulance services, the amount Wilton had set at its Jan. 19 budget hearing, despite a request that morning from Temple town officials that the payments from each of the four towns that use Wilton’s ambulance service be adjusted. According to members of Temple’s Budget Advisory Committee on Tuesday night Greenfield share for 2020 should be closer to $77,000.

Greenfield’s proposed budget for 2020 is $2,611,536, which is 5.8 percent higher than last year’s $2,468,400.

“We try to keep the tax rate flat to save for whatever large purchase might be down the road,” town treasurer Kathrine Heck said at the budget hearing Wednesday night.

As a small town, Greenfield will never likely be able to pay for a large purchase all at once, especially since one comes up in a different department every few years, she said.

Patt said in the next five years, the town will need to replace a grader, a DPW pickup truck, a fire truck, a loader, and a police car.

“We need to get some breathing room,” he said, and explained the truck purchase on this year’s warrant as a way of spreading those high ticket equipment costs out over a longer period of time.

Heck said the town hasn’t borrowed money in nine years.

“So far as a rating agency is concerned, we are very bondable at this point and in good standing.”

Several of the 17 attendees requested more information on the purchase of a new six wheel dump truck on the warrant.

“We need this truck,” Charig Bliss said.

Patt explained it would replace an existing, used dump truck that’s cost thousands in annual repairs, and it was determined that the reliability of a new vehicle justified its cost. The trade-in value of the old truck would not be reflected in the warrant by voting time, Patt said, but would lessen the overall cost of $205,072 to taxpayers all the same.

Two warrant articles are directed at appropriating funds for paved and gravel road maintenance. This year, DPW Road division manager Todd Mason said his department would finish paving East Road to New Boston Road, moving onto Mountain Road afterward. Gravel road funds would allow them to repair Old Bennington Road – replacing 11 culverts in the process – before moving on to Cavender Road and repairing “as far as we can,” he said.

Select Board members also clarified a warrant article seeking to increase the net income eligibility threshold for an existing property tax exemption for elderly residents.

“This article was first passed in 1998,” Selectman Robert Marshall said, and only five households currently meet the income limits that were set at that time.

The modification raises the net income threshold $6,000 to $25,000 for an individual or $33,000 for a married couple.

“This adjustment is not the same as a cost of living adjustment,” Marshall said, but the Board was attempting to extend the benefits of the bill to more needy residents without destabilizing the tax base.

“We can assess this next year or the year after. ... but we didn’t want to jump from five to 105 people who are qualified,” Charig Bliss said.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. The original story incorrectly listed Greenfield’s 2019 budget and the subsequent percent increase to the proposed 2020 budget. It should have said the 2019 budget was $2,468,400 and the proposed 2020 budget is an increase of 5.8 percent.

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