SHOREHAM — At Monday evening’s town meeting, Shoreham residents approved all resolutions up for vote with two articles on the warning drawing a large share of the discussion.
After much talk, residents accepted an education spending plan that represented a 3.1 percent increase from the current year and authorized an expenditure of up to $160,000 of new taxpayer dollars for a new town clerk’s office, which will supplemented with money already on hand..
The 150 residents in attendance also unanimously approved the proposed 2012-2013 General Fund budget of $240,257, which represented a 2.8 percent increase from the current year. In a separate vote, townspeople authorize the selectboard to put $10,000 of the General Fund balance in the Reserve Fund for the new town office.
The town’s Highway Fund spending plan was approved with similar consensus. Residents signed off on the $573,841 budget to pay for road construction and maintenance in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
While the majority of the proposals passed easily, lively debate surrounded the proposed $1,426,401 education spending plan, which represents a 3.1-percent spending hike compared to this year. Citizens raised concerns about low enrolment at Shoreham Elementary (where the annual meeting was held), high education spending in comparison with other towns, and the efficacy of instruction.
One resident cited the recent publication of New England Common Assessment (NECAP) scores, which he believed were illustrative of, “how poorly we are doing” in comparison with schools in neighboring towns.
School board member Natasha Causton defended the budget, explaining that the higher education costs were associated with spending on essential special needs programs. Causton also illustrated that Shoreham’s NECAP scores have been improving in recent years.
“Scores are going in the right direction in reading and math. Shoreham is making steady progress,” she said.
The majority of residents in attendance were convinced, approving the budget with near unanimous consent via voice vote.
Selectboard member Bruce Perlow encouraged residents to attend a series of community discussions beginning in March that will address “the greater educational concerns” facing Shoreham.
Debate was equally contentious surrounding the proposal to build the new 2,000-square-foot town clerk’s office to replace the 600-square-foot structure they currently have. The selectboard asked townspeople to use $290,000 that has accrued in the “new town office reserve fund” and add another $160,000 to float through a five-year loan.
Residents raised concerns about their limited involvement in the planning process, as well as the siting of the building on the west end of the common near the current town offices and the cost of the new structure.
Selectboard member Paul Saenger — who was publicly thanked for his service on the board at the conclusion of the meeting — addressed citizens’ concerns about construction costs. He explained that it was his hope that the project could be completed for “much less” than the $450,000 estimate. Following a lengthy discussion, the resolution passed on a voice vote with around three residents in opposition.
Residents also approved an expenditure of $4,500 for fireworks for the Shoreham Festival, and accepted a proposal permit the selectboard to sell five town-owned swamp lots.
In Australian ballot voting at the firehouse on Tuesday, Shoreham residents were deciding a three-way race for two one-year terms on the selectboard. The candidates are incumbent Selectmen Paul Saenger and Sandy Witherell Jr., as well as resident Mark Spitzner.
Incumbent Selectwoman Karen Shackett is unopposed for a three-year term on the board.
In uncontested elections, Andrea Hubbell and Natalie Causton are seeking terms of three years and two years, respectively, on the local school board, while Benjamin Cadoret is looking to fill out a vacated term that expires in March of 2013. Erik Remsen is seeking a three-year term on the UD-3 school board.
Editor’s note: Reporter Bronwyn Oatley is a junior at Middlebury College.