Town Meeting Preview 2015: Panton

PANTON — Panton residents will gather at Town Hall on Tuesday, March 3, to decide a number of financial questions and to choose several new officers, and on the same day weigh in on Vergennes Union High School and Vergennes Union Elementary School spending.
Town meeting itself begins at 10 a.m., while voting will run that day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ten elective positions are becoming vacant, most notably two on the selectboard and one on the VUHS board. Town officials said incumbents have said they would like to be nominated from the floor to continue service.
Beth Tarallo’s term on the selectboard ends in March, and she would like another three years; Howard Hall was appointed this past May to the selectboard and must now be elected, and would like to conclude the final year of a term; and Richard Rathbun was appointed to the VUHS board, and would also like to stay on the job.
Selectboard members have included several articles that they say look to the town’s future financial health. Panton is estimated to have, according to its town warning, $97,216 of an “undesignated fund balance,” essentially a surplus.
Two articles are related to that fund balance. One asks voters to create a reserve fund “not to exceed 7 percent of the general budget” (which pays for administrative expenses), with that fund intended to “cover unanticipated revenue shortfalls” and handle other unanticipated expenses in the general fund and highway budgets.
The related article asks residents to approve a transfer of $47,216 from that surplus to the new reserve fund.
The selectboard is requesting in a separate article that voters back a move to put the remaining $50,000 into the Highway Capital Equipment Fund, which is used for major equipment purchases.
Another article requests regular contributions totaling $59,000 to five Town Reserve Funds, most notably $20,000 apiece to the Highway Capital Equipment Fund and the Highway Capital Project Fund, and $15,000 to the Town Hall Restoration Fund.
Australian balloting will be devoted to school budgets.
The VUHS board put forth a roughly $10.47 million spending plan that administrators said will begin to dig VUHS out of its deep financial hole and would better reflect the cost of operating the school after years of underfunded spending. The board is also seeking $100,000 to put in the VUHS capital improvement fund.
To reach the administrators’ long-term goals, the budget calls for an 11 percent spending increase of about $1 million over the current VUHS budget, despite cuts equal to about four teaching jobs.
Vergennes, Panton and Waltham voters will also be asked to approve a $4.7 million Vergennes Union Elementary School budget that would increase spending by about 7.7 percent over the current level of about $4.36 million. Deficit spending and accounting for poor past accounting practices are also driving the VUES budget higher, according to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials.
According to ANwSU estimates, if both budgets and related capital fund requests are approved, Panton residential property taxes could rise by about 10 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $1.5591.
The estimated increase of about 10 cents would translate to roughly $100 per $100,000 of assessed value.
Most homeowners will receive prebates following their tax payments to soften the initial increase.
About two-thirds of Addison County households are eligible for property tax relief under the state’s education financing laws. Prebates typically average around $1,300 in Addison County, according to 2014 state data. 

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