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Hopkinton tentative budget sees small increase in tax rate

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HOPKINTON — The Hopkinton Town Board is finalizing a 2014 spending plan that calls for a 1.67 percent increase in the tax rate.

Town Council members reviewed their tentative 2014 budget this week with budget officer Vickie L. French.

Ms. French said some minor changes had been made in the two weeks since a public hearing on the preliminary budget. She said that given the additional recent alterations, the budget now stands at about $529,755.

“With the changes that we discussed, we talked about adding some funding for the cemeteries because they needed a new lawn mower. So we are adding $1,550 to their account towards the lawn mower,” Ms. French said.

“Looking at the retirement fund in both the general and the highway, I am still uncomfortable with those figures, so I put another $1,000 in the general fund retirement and another $1,000 in the highway retirement. If we have excess in this, we’ll transfer it to our reserve account at the end of the year. Those increases came to $19,860.”

Ms. French added that the $529,755 spending plan is down from last year’s total budget of $536,404.

The tax rate is tentatively $4.85 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of 8 cents per $1,000 for taxpayers from 2013.

Ms. French, who also serves as the town clerk, attributed the tax hike to a $2 million loss in taxable assessed value for the town.

“We had a timber company file for a 480-a exemption, and that was the cause,” Ms. French said, referring to forestland tax under state Real Property Tax Law.

The general fund is at $166,138, up from last year’s total of $148,981. The highway fund, meanwhile, currently sees a drop of over $40,000. Last year’s total was $387,423, and the 2014 budget stands at $343,757 for now.

Large decreases under the highway fund include general repair personal services ($49,440 to $39,480) and snow removal personal services ($103,381 to $87,332).

Board members indicated that despite the increase in tax rate, the severity of it was not as high as initially expected.

“This is less than we thought the increase was going to be, and we actually had public input on that. It’s not going to 2.5 percent, it’s a lot less,” board member Amanda L. Potter said.

The tentative budget shows a $522 pay raise for the town clerk, $140 boost for the town justices, and $1,192 increase for the highway superintendent. Town Supervisor Susan Wood and the Town Council members will not see a raise.

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