New Haven to settle budget size and voting questions at special town meeting

NEW HAVEN — Residents of New Haven will meet at a special town meeting next Monday and then vote on Tuesday by Australian ballot on a nearly quarter-million-dollar supplement to the General Fund budget for this coming fiscal year due to a budgeting error. They will also discuss and vote on whether to switch back to voice voting on the town budget at future town meetings.
The Monday meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the town hall. Voting is Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. by Australian ballot, also at the town hall.
Town officials learned at the end of March that New Haven owed $218,997 in school taxes to the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, thought it was unclear which agency had made a mistake with the transaction. Once they were informed of the error, the selectboard opted to go back to voters to request a supplemental increase to the General Fund budget that was passed on Town Meeting Day on March 5.
Town officials released a letter late last month explaining the debacle to voters.
“During the budget process, the treasurer and selectboard questioned the amount of surplus in the General Fund since it was so large and unexpected,” selectboard chair Kathleen Barrett wrote in the letter. “We could not fully explain the surplus and the only figure that we had no control over was the amount paid to schools.”
Treasurer Barb Torian checked the paperwork and in January the selectboard double-checked with ANeSU’s office that the full amount had been paid. Though the district office replied that New Haven had paid the full amount, a mistake had been made. In March, the district office discovered the error and informed New Haven that nearly a quarter of a million dollars was owed.
Town officials say they are taking steps to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future.
“The verification of the payment became complicated due to the number of agencies involved,” Barrett’s letter explained. “On the state level is the Agency of Property Valuation, the Department of Education and the Department of Taxation. Then, on the local level, there’s the superintendent’s office; two schools, Beeman (Elementary) and Mount Abraham (Union High School); and the town of New Haven. Errors can occur on any of those levels.”
And while they were planning a special town meeting, town officials also put two additional items on the warning for voters to consider: whether to change the time of the annual town meeting to 6:30 p.m. on the Monday before the first Tuesday of March, and whether to vote on monetary items in the General Fund and Road Fund by voice vote.
The town voted in the late 1990s to do all budget voting by Australian ballot, town officials told the Independent. However, a petition was recently submitted to the town requesting that the town revert back to voice vote to ensure that voters continued to come to town meeting discussions, thus preserving the tradition of participatory town meetings in Vermont.
New Haven voters will discuss those three items at Monday’s town meeting and vote on changing the annual town meeting time from the floor. Then, on Tuesday, May 21, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., they will vote by Australian ballot on the supplemental increase to the general budget and the voice vote item.

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