Town Meeting Wrap 2015: Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Around 120 Middlebury residents turned out at their annual meeting Monday evening to overwhelmingly endorse all of the money items on their warning, and they returned to the polls the next day to field a ballot featuring one contested race. In that race, for a three-year term on the Mary Hogan Elementary School board, Leslie Bodette defeated Elaine Orozco Hammond, 336-219.
The main piece of business at town meeting was deciding a municipal budget request of $9,949,155, up 6.7 percent compared to the current spending plan of $9,325,048. Around 50 percent of that increase was related to debt service on the soon-to-be built new town offices and recreation center; Ilsley Library repairs; and the recent makeover of the Middlebury and East Middlebury fire stations. Contracted salary increases and benefits were the other major drivers for the spending plan, which will have the effect of adding 3.8 cents to the current municipal tax rate of 94.03 cents per $100 in property value.
Selectboard members explained all major facets of the budget, including expenses related to public safety, administration, public works, parks and recreation, capital projects and the Ilsley Public Library.
Residents asked few questions and offered few comments before approving the budget with a resounding voice vote.
The other money-related article on this year’s warning sought permission for the town to take out a loan of up to $117,000 to finance two new police cruisers and related equipment, a one-ton dump truck for the Highway Department, and a pick-up truck for the Vehicle & Equipment Department. That article also passed with little discussion and by a resounding voice vote.
Article five sought permission for the town to provide “notice of the availability of the auditors’ report by providing notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the town in lieu of mailing or otherwise distributing the report itself…” The auditors’ report will also be available on the town’s website, town officials said. That article passed by unanimous voice vote.
Residents and town officials took advantage of the “other business” article to introduce their candidacies for public office, recognize exemplary volunteers, explain the activities of local social service organizations, and provide updates on various projects planned for downtown Middlebury. Jamie Gaucher, director of the Middlebury Office of Business Development & Innovation, updated residents on new business activity in the community (see related story on Page 1A).
Also, ID-4 school board Chairwoman Ruth Hardy provided an overview of the proposed 2015-2016 Mary Hogan Elementary budget of $6,775,965, representing a 1.94-percent spending increase over the current spending plan, which will be decided by Middlebury voters at a meeting on April 8.
Aside from the Bodette-Hammond contest, there were no other contested races on Tuesday’s Australian ballot. In those uncontested races, voters elected incumbent Selectwomen Susan Shashok (519 votes) and Donna Donahue (547 votes) to terms of two and three years, respectively, and  Selectboard Chairman Dean George (579 votes)  to another one-year term as selectman; Chris Watters to a three-year term on the Ilsley Library Board of Trustees; incumbents Mark Perrin, Robert Ritter and Steve Orzech to three-year terms on the UD-3 school board, which governs Middlebury Union middle and high schools; and Hudson Tilford to a three-year term as lister.

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