by Mickey Smith
The preliminary County Budget, which covers costs for the courthouse building, Probate Court, and a portion of the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department, show a $16,420 (about a 3%) increase over last year’s budget.
The $551,945 budget took a large jump last year due largely to an increase in the courthouse portion of the budget. An additional $60,000 was included in building improvements for a two-year window project. This year’s budget includes the second installment of that payment, as well as $20,000 for the hiring of a clerk of the works for the anticipated courthouse expansion project. Assistant Judges Karen Bradley and David Williams have been lobbying for expenses like this to be paid for by the state. Courthouses around the state are treated differently based on old agreements and definitions of ownership of the building. Many of the historic buildings, like the Lamoille County Courthouse, are still owned locally so the state does not chip in for building improvements.
Helping to offset this additional money is a reduction in “bench time” from $30,000 to $15,000 for the assistant judges. According to actual expenditures from the 2011-2012 budget, this new budget better reflects the actual time spent on the bench under recent changes to the assistant judge role.
The Probate Court budget is jumping $1,000 from $3,000 to $4,000.
The Sheriff’s Department portion of this budget is showing about a $5,000 increase to the budget to $171,745. The two biggest jumps in this budget come in the form of salaries and insurance, as well as electricity.
The County Budget is not voted on by county residents directly. Each year the budget is prepared and presented at a final budget meeting, which this year will be held on Tuesday, December 11, at 7 p.m. in the Lamoille County Court House. At this meeting, the assistant judges and County Clerk Anne Conway can take questions and concerns from those in attendance in setting the final budget for the County.
Once the final budget is set, assessments for each town are prepared based on the town’s percentage of the current grand list for the entire county. The 2012 grand list is not set by the state until the end of December.
Based on 2011 numbers, Stowe paid the highest portion of the budget, as their grand list accounts for slightly over 50% of the county total of $42,436,760 in assessed value. Morristown, at 14.4% and Cambridge, at 12.6% come in second and third. Belvidere, at 0.68% paid the lowest assessment.