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March 04. 2013 10:38PM

Bedford voters face tax hike

BEDFORD - Residents will vote on the $25.8 million town budget Wednesday night at Bedford High School.

Of the total amount, $23.9 million will have an impact on property tax bills, as some portions of the budget are offset by revenues, said Town Manager Jessie Levine.

Despite a nearly level-funded budget, Bedford households will see a 30-cent increase per thousand dollars of assessed home value, which amounts to about $120 on a $400,000 home.

Levine presented the budget to voters in a presentation aired on BCTV with Town Council Chairman Bill Dermody and Vice Chairman Chris Bandazian. Levine said there were three budget drivers beyond the town's control that contributed to the tax increase: an increase in employee retirement costs, contractual obligations in previously approved collective bargaining agreements and the first principal payment on an infrastructure bond passed by voters in 2011.

"Without the payment on the bond, the tax impact would only have been 9 cents," Levine said.

Levine said several items were taken out of this year's budget and paid for with a surplus from the 2012 budget - a six-wheel dump truck for the Department of Public Works, a pickup for the Fire Department and a new walkway for the library.

The budget includes the addition of one new police officer and half-year payment for a full-time planning assistant, as well as full funding for a DPW engineer.

Also included in the budget is $146,000 in merit raises for non-union employees and $368,000 in capital outlays that will be partially offset by capital reserve funds.

"We think that this budget recognizes that the last five to six years have been stagnant in terms of budgeting," Levine said. "You can only do that for so long."

A $750,000 increase in the fire department budget is expected to be completely offset by grant money, with $301,000 for swift water rescue already received.

Levine said an additional $450,000 is included for a new fire engine.

"But if we don't get the grant, we just won't spend the money," she said.

Dermody credited Levine and department heads with reducing the budget where possible.

"We all understand that a 30-cent increase is a lot of money," he said, but pointed out that the tax impact was 40 cents when the process began.

kremillard@newstote.com


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