CHELSEA — Residents will vote soon at Town Meeting on whether to approve school and municipal budgets that could increase their property taxes.

Voting is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11, and the open Town Meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. June 13. Both will be held at Chelsea Elementary School.

Other issues include numerous elective positions and ordinance updates, including changes to the town’s minimum lot size ordinance. Voting on an increasing Regional School Unit 12 budget, which town officials said could increase the property tax rate, also will be held June 11.

The town’s Budget Committee recommends municipal expenditures totaling $1,465,485, while the selectmen are recommending $1,485,026. The original budget compiled by Town Manager Scott Tilton was $1,494,396.

Chelsea Town Manager Scott Tilton

The Budget Committee’s recommendation is an 8.5% increase over last year’s $1,349,836 spending plan, while the selectmen’s budget shows a 10% increase. Revenue, including state revenue sharing and $150,000 in surplus funding being carried forward from the current fiscal year, is expected to increase 4.5% from $753,650 last fiscal year to $787,888.

The revenue increase is stimulated by an additional $50,000 in estimated excise tax revenue and small increases anticipated in building permit revenue and tax lien costs.

The town is estimating it will raise $697,138 through taxes this year, $101,952 — or 17.1% — more than last fiscal year. Tilton said it was difficult to predict the property tax rate, but estimated it could increase to “at least” $20.45 per $1,000 worth of assessed property value. He said the town’s Select Board will choose a tax rate after it decides how much surplus funding will carry into next year and how much overlay funding to work into the budget.

Chelsea’s RSU 12 local share — spurred by sizeable student increase — has increased $137,435 over last fiscal year, from $2,340,401 to $2,477,836. Tilton said the increased school budget could increase property tax rates by up to 75 cents per $1,000 of property value.

“Our valuation is going up and our student count is going up,” Tilton said. “That’s going to increase the mill rate no matter what.”

Selectman Mike Pushard, when discussing road repairs with Chelsea residents during a May 9 Select Board meeting, suggested voting down the RSU 12 budget to save the town some tax money for other projects.

“One vote down for that school budget would save us $40,000 to $50,000 on our end,” he said. “That’s almost more important than coming to our annual town budget and voting for your municipal budget.”

The biggest increase for a single expenditure line item falls under “summer roads,” which increases $120,297 — or 34.4% — from $349,563 to $469,860. Tilton said $95,000 of that increase is tied to a culvert repair on Nelson Road. He said all but $95,000 is covered by a grant, which the town would lose if the $240,000 project is not complete by next fiscal year.

There are a total of seven changes from the Select Board’s budget recommended by the Budget Committee. Most are marginal, but the committee recommended slightly higher funding for some items and totally omitted funding for others.

The Budget Committee recommends no funding for a school bus that takes high school students from home to Chelsea Elementary School — the point where they are picked up by buses to take them to their school of choice in the morning and dropped off after school is out. Tilton said if no funding was put in the budget for this service, guardians would have to drive their children to and from Chelsea Elementary or find another way to get there. The Select Board recommended $26,066 for the service.

Smaller increases of $11,626, $11,343 and $10,096 are shown under lines for administration, employee benefits and public safety dispatch, respectively.

Pushard is running unopposed for his position, Scott Arnold and Carol Belanger are running unopposed for two-year terms on the Planning Board, Henry Truman is running unopposed for a three-year term on the Board of Appeals, and Richard Danforth is running for a three-year term on the Board of Assessment Review, a three-year term on the Budget Committee and a three-year term on the Board of Appeals.

A host of elective positions will need to be filled by write-in candidates, including four positions on the Board of Appeals, five positions on the Board of Assessment Review, one position on the RSU 12 board of directors, four positions on the Planning Board and one person on the Budget Committee. Write-ins must receive at least 25 votes, Tilton said.

Article 23 could authorize the town to spend $18,602 enter an agreement with Affinity LED to convert the town’s streetlights to LED lights. According to the warrant, converting to LED lights could save the town $6,400 annually over traditional streetlights.

A change the town’s minimum lot size could allow more residential units on smaller properties. Currently, the minimum lot size for any residential dwelling in 2 acres. With the new change, the minimum stays at 2 acres, but each additional unit on a lot requires an additional half-acre. This means a duplex could sit on 2.5 acres, rather than four.

The town also will consider a proposed Floodplain Management Ordinance to line the town up with state regulations and a proposed Vehicle Excise Tax Exemption Ordinance designed to exempt those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces outside of the state or deployed for military services but still wish to register their cars in Chelsea.


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