Heath copes with utility revenue loss

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/11/2018 9:00:05 PM

HEATH — Residents will see a pared-down budget request, but one that uses most of the town’s “free cash” reserves at today’s Annual Town Meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in the Heath Elementary School building.

Town officials learned this spring that National Grid and affiliate utilities have assessed utility properties in town and declared their asset valuations for poles, equipment and high-tension towers have dropped by $3.5 million. Town officials and local legislators are trying to arrange a meeting with the utility to question this dramatic decrease, but the meeting has not yet been agreed to by the utility.

According to Ned Wolf, Finance Committee chairman, the 35 percent assessment drop in utility revenues means a loss of about $89,000 to this town of only 700 residents and their homes. That revenue represents about 4.5 percent of the town’s tax levy.

There is an overall $20,000 decrease in the $1.2 million town operating budget for the fiscal year that begins in July, but about $138,000 of the town’s certified free cash will be used — leaving only $12,000 for a free-cash balance.

“I can’t recall leaving (a balance) as little as we’re leaving this year,” Wolf said.

Also, the Mohawk’s $814,984 school assessment is about $2,000 less than the current year’s assessment.

There are three Mohawk Trail Regional School District articles on the warrant that do not directly impact Heath, but which Heath will vote on as a district member town. One article is to take the Rowe tuition agreement out of the regional agreement and allow tuition negotiations to be done by the Rowe and Mohawk school committees, without requiring the town meeting approval of all eight member towns. The second is the procedures for Mohawk to arrange vocational school students’ transportation for member towns that don’t belong to a vocational school district. And the third agreement, which has already been defeated by other Mohawk towns, is to move sixth-graders from Mohawk’s elementary schools into the Mohawk Trail Regional School’s middle school wing. Heath now tuitions its children to Hawlemont, and they wouldn’t have been affected by this measure.

Many purchases requested this year are to come from money transfers and free cash reserves instead of by raising taxes. They include: $700 to be used by the Heath Free Public Library; $30,000 from free cash to be deposited into the Large Equipment/Vehicle Replacement Stabilization account; $5,000 for the assessors expense account; $30,000 from free cash to reduce the fiscal year’s tax rate; $6,604 from free cash to pay what is owed for the Safety Complex land purchase loan made last year; and $7,367 to pay what is owed for the 2015 police cruiser; and $15,000 from free cash for the Treasurer Tax Taking account.

Also, a $34,000 chunk of free cash will be deposited into the Tropical Storm Irene Principal account.


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