2016 Middlebury Town Meeting Preview

MIDDLEBURY — Town meeting in Middlebury will include a five-person race for three spots on the selectboard (see Page 11A) and the election of a new, 13-member Addison Central School District (ACSD) board that would govern all of the public schools in the Addison Central Supervisory Union under a single budget.
The five candidates vying for three available three-year terms on the selectboard include current board Vice Chairman Nick Artim, current Selectman Gary Baker, former Selectman Victor Nuovo, Middlebury Public Works Committee member Heather Seeley, and Richard Terk, leader of the Middlebury Airport Neighborhood Association. Longtime selectboard Chairman Dean George — to whom this year’s town report is dedicated — is not running for re-election this year.
Middlebury will have seven representatives on the new ACSD board. Seven Middlebury residents are running unopposed for terms ranging from one to three years. They include Lorraine Morse, Steve Orzech and Josh Quinn, each for three years; Jason Duquette-Hoffman and Ruth Hardy, each for two years; and Victoria Jette and JP Rees, each for one year.
All ACSD board members will be elected at-large, meaning residents of all seven Addison Central towns will vote on candidates for all 13 positions.
Election of the new board is, of course, contingent on ACSU voters approving unification of their school governance, which will be a separate referendum on the March 1 ballot.
There are no other contested races on the Middlebury ballot. Those running unopposed include James Douglas, town moderator, one year; Jason Duquette-Hoffman and Ruth Hardy, three years each, for the ID-4 school board; Lorraine Morse, UD-3 school board, three years; and Catherine Nichols, Ilsley Library Board of Trustees, three years.
Middlebury voters at their town meeting will decide a proposed 2016-2017 municipal budget that will not require an increase in property taxes. The proposed spending plan would raise $6,943,658 in property taxes. If OK’d by voters at town meeting on Feb. 29, this would translate into the same municipal property tax rate of 98 cents per $100 in property value that residents currently pay for town services.
Mary Hogan Elementary School (ID-4) directors are proposing a 2016-2017 budget of $7,391,279, which represents a 9.08 percent increase in the bottom line, but only a 0.6-percent increase in equalized per-pupil spending compared to this year. The tax impacts of the proposed spending plan would be somewhat offset by an anticipated 11-percent boost in equalized pupils, from the current 415 to 460. District voters will also be asked, at their annual meeting on Feb. 29, to apply $150,000 in fund balance to offset taxes.
This is the first year that the ID-4 budget will be decided by Australian ballot (on March 1), following an informational meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 29, in the municipal building. Historically, the budget has been voted at the ID-4 annual meeting.
The proposed ID-4 budget includes a Spanish language teacher for grades 3 through 6. The salary for the new Spanish instructor would be offset by the elimination of a classroom teaching position that will be vacated due to an impending retirement. Also influencing the ID-4 budget: the state’s universal pre-K requirement. All school districts will be given state assistance to ensure families have access to pre-K programming for their 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. Families can use their pre-K allowance within their local school or to help pay for tuition at a separate, certified program.
As the Addison Independent went to press, the Vermont Agency of Education was still awaiting clarification from legislators on how Act 46 will affect the “property dollar equivalent yield” used to calculate the homestead education property tax rates in all local school districts.
Other items on the Middlebury town meeting warning seek:
• Permission to take out a five-year, $242,000 loan to bankroll a police cruiser and related equipment, a pick-up truck and related equipment for public works, a sprayer and power-drive unit for line painting for public works, and a trailer for public works.
• Authority to collect local property taxes in three equal installments, due Aug. 15, 2016; Nov. 11, 2016; and March 15, 2017.
• To set the penalty charged by the tax collector for delinquent tax payments as follows: No penalty for all payments made prior to the due date for the third and final installment; 1 percent on any balance not paid by the due date for the third and final installment; and an additional 7 percent on any balance not paid within 10 days of the due date of the third and final installment.
• Elimination of the elected office of auditor. This position has not been drawing candidates, and the accounting chores in question have been delegated to a professional firm.
• $6,500 for the Charter House Coalition to support the nonprofit’s emergency housing and daily food programs for people in need.
Middlebury’s annual meeting, to be held (for the last time) in the town’s soon-to-be-demolished municipal gym on Monday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m., will also include discussion of the following topics:
• Progress on the town offices and recreation center projects. The recreation center on Creek Road is now open, with an open house scheduled for March 2.
• An update on the downtown rail bridges project.
• An opportunity for candidates for local offices to introduce themselves.
Australian ballot voting in Middlebury will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the municipal gym.

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