Guilford at polls to vote on budgets

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
April 8, 2008

GUILFORD — Voters are going to the polls today to decide whether to approve the town’s budget and $2.96 million in school improvements.

The Board of Finance’s proposed 2008-09 budget includes about $27.4 million for the town government and $48.2 million for the school district, for a total budget of almost $75.5 million. That represents a 5.72 percent increase over the current year’s budget.

The town is projecting a tax rate of 19.19 mills, Finance Director Sheila Riegelmann said, or $19.19 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That means a homeowner with a property assessed at $250,000 would pay $4,797.50 in taxes next year.

Guilford is still finishing up its five-year revaluation process, meaning that the tax rate could change depending on how the Board of Assessment Appeals’ decisions affect the grand list. But Riegelmann added that she included an estimate of the amount the board will reduce the grant list when she was determining the tax rate.

The Board of Assessment Appeals is continuing to meet this week, and the town has until 10 days after the budget referendum to set the final tax rate.

With the revaluation, the average property assessment increased by about 38 percent. Riegelmann said that the tax increase residents could see will be relative to the results of the revaluation.

If a home’s assessed value increased by 38 percent, the homeowner’s taxes would go up by the percent increase in the budget — 5.72 percent.

People who saw smaller results in the revaluation could have their taxes decrease or increase by less than 5.72 percent, and people whose home values went up more than 38 percent would have a larger increase.

“Depending on how much your assessment went up, there are some people I know that their taxes are going to be less than last year,” she said.

The budget referendum also includes two questions related to improvements at four Guilford schools. The first question would appropriate $2.59 million for a new roof at A.W. Cox Elementary School and water infiltration improvements intended to prevent more flooding at Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School.

The second question asks voters to approve $365,000 for renovations at Abraham Baldwin Middle School and Melissa Jones Elementary School.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said the work at Cox and Adams is most pressing for the school district. The roof at Cox leaks and basement classrooms at Adams have had to be evacuated twice this school year because of flooding.

“Those are very high priority items,” Forcella said. “If I had to prioritize the two (bonding questions), I’d think the Cox roof and the drainage at Adams are both extremely important as far as the facilities are concerned.”

If voters do not approve the town and school district budgets, they would go back to the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education to make additional cuts, Riegelmann said. The Board of Finance would then review the budget again and set another referendum date.

“We already presented a very lean budget knowing that in a revaluation year it’s very difficult to pass a budget because the voters are worried about their valuations going up,” she said.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. The polling places are: District 1, Calvin Leete School; District 2, Baldwin Middle School; District 3,Fire Department; District 4, Melissa Jones School, and District 5, A.W. Cox School.

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