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Town Meeting Preview 2015: Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents at town meeting — which will be held this year on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 10 a.m. at Ferrisburgh Central School (FCS) — will be asked to approve higher town spending and several other financial articles.
In Australian balloting at the Route 7 town office building from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, residents will decide two contested races, including one for the selectboard, and weigh in on school spending that will have a tax impact.
On Saturday at FCS, residents will consider the selectboard’s proposal for a 2015-2016 town budget that calls for the first recent significant spending increase, a 5.6 percent hike to about $1.77 million.
Line items pushing spending up include increased hours for town office workers, an additional road crew employee, a $100,000 deficit from the current year that must be retired (one largely due to a new hire in the road department and long hours for new office personnel), and projected higher insurance and road resurfacing costs.
According to Ferrisburgh officials, the town’s municipal tax rate could increase by about 3.5 cents (almost 15 percent) if that budget is approved, and residents also back $30,800 of charitable requests and three other financial articles totaling $80,000.
Those three articles request:
•  $40,000 to buy a lot that abuts both the Ferrisburgh town office building and the Ferrisburgh Central School.
•  $30,000 for a reserve fund to be dedicated toward maintenance of town-owned buildings.
•  $10,000 more to the budget’s highway contingency fund.
The contested selectboard race is for a three-year term on the selectboard between Dennis Armell and Michael “Red” Muir, neither of whom has prior experience on the board.
Muir, a certified pipe welder and former union president and volunteer fireman, has served on the Winooski zoning board and now serves as chairman of the Ferrisburgh Building Maintenance Committee.
Armell is a longtime Vermont Army National Guard member who has coached youth sports, taught hunter education, served as an officer of Vergennes American Legion Post 14 and been a member of the Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission for 10-plus years.
Incumbent Selectman Jim Benoit is running unopposed for a two-year term, but another incumbent board member, Sally Torrey, is stepping down after a decade on the board.
However, in Ferrisburgh’s other contested race, Torrey is challenging incumbent delinquent tax collector and former town clerk Chet Hawkins for the tax collection post.
Also on the ballot, incumbent Vergennes Union High School board members Kurt Haigis and George Gardner are running unopposed for re-election, as are incumbent Ferrisburgh Central School directors Bill Clark and Laurie Gutowski.
Also on Tuesday, residents will be asked to back a 2.97 percent increase in FCS spending to about $3.6 million and a $10.47 million Vergennes Union High School budget that seeks an increase of about $1 million. Board members said that increase is necessary to retire a deficit and correct what current Addison Northwest Supervisory Union administrators call inadequate past budgeting practices.
Officials estimate approval of both those budgets and related spending articles would add about 9.5 cents to the town’s tax rate. Therefore, backing all spending could mean about a 13-cent hike in the town’s overall tax rate.
That increase would translate to $130 for every $100,000 in assessed value.
About two-thirds of Ferrisburgh households are eligible for property tax relief under the state’s education financing laws and should receive prebates that would lessen the impact. Most prebates for households earning under $90,000 are more than $1,000, often much higher.

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