Letter: Funds transfer necessary in town of Washington

Posted
To the editor:

I would like to offer some clarifying context for something that Becket's Select Board chairman said in a statement quoted in the article titled "Washington seeking fire coverage after Becket severs cooperative agreement as of July 1" (Eagle, June 5). In his statement, Mr. Elovirta referenced the town of Washington's approval to transfer $40,000 from Free Cash to lower the tax rate.

While I can understand why, from an outside perspective, he might be irked to read of such a move, I would like to clarify that this transfer was not some frivolous windfall to taxpayers, despite how the wording of a warrant article might make it sound. This financial maneuver was deemed necessary in order to achieve an overall tax levy that would be able to receive approval from the Department of Revenue.

For the past few years, the town of Washington has been pushing up against its levy limit. In FY18, our tax levy was at 99 percent of our limit. Despite all efforts to keep expenditures in check, for the past several years the increase in expenses has outpaced any growth in revenue capacity, driven in part by rising school district assessments and critical bridge repairs. These stresses are not unique to our town and are being faced by small towns throughout the county. Regular Eagle readers may recall that this year, on top of everything else, the town of Washington was forced to grapple with a proposed $30,000 cut to its state PILOT funds.

Washington simply does not have enough excess levy capacity to easily absorb such financial shocks. The transfer of unused funds from a previous year in order to offset a projected revenue shortfall was part of an overall balancing act to ensure an estimated tax levy that would not violate Proposition 2 limits.

Kent Lew,

Washington

The writer is chair of the town of Washington Finance Committee



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