FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents in March 7 voting at Ferrisburgh’s Route 7 town office building will decide three contested town races and weigh in on school spending, while at Ferrisburgh Central School on Saturday, March 4, they will make three financial decisions, including whether to approve the selectboard’s budget proposal and to buy a $190,000 truck.
The in-person town meeting will begin at the school this Saturday at 10 a.m.
Polls will be open at Ferrisburgh Town Hall for voting on Tuesday, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Two of the contested races involved incumbent Treasurer Garrit Smits, who this year has faced criticism from the Ferrisburgh selectboard, auditors and fellow employees.
Smits is seeking re-election for three years as treasurer. He is opposed by current town auditor Deb Healey.
Smits’ other race is a rematch of sorts: He won the treasurer’s job in 2014 in a close race with Town Clerk Gloria Warden, who while decisively winning her clerk contest ran as a write-in candidate for treasurer vs. Smits.
This time around Smits is seeking both offices: He is challenging Warden for the town clerk position.
It is possible the winners of those races will be the last elected to the two jobs: The Ferrisburgh selectboard is moving to write the town’s first charter, one that if eventually approved by voters and the Legislature would make the positions appointed, not elected. The charter could be a topic of discussion on Saturday morning.
The third contested race pits Dennis Armell — a retired Vermont Army National Guard official who has sought a seat on the selectboard previously, losing to current selectboard member Red Muir in 2015 — and Rick Ebel, a retired school administrator who has been vocal at town and school board meetings. They are seeking the selectboard seat being vacated by longtime board member Jim Warden. Meanwhile, incumbent Selectman Jim Benoit is running uncontested for re-election.
The Ferrisburgh selectboard adopted a $1,850,100 spending proposal that, if approved by residents on March 7, town officials said would barely move the town’s municipal tax rate, effectively cut the hours of the elected treasurer position from 35 to 20, and allow the board to hire an extra part-time worker for the town office.
That figure does not include an estimated $41,000 for the first year’s payments on a $190,000 tandem dump and plow truck the board is recommending the town buy. Nor does it include $32,778 in charitable requests and a request for $500 to start a Conservation Fund. Voters will decide all those spending questions on Saturday morning.
If residents approve from the floor of town meeting that total of $1,923,878 of spending, officials estimated it could trigger up to a half-cent increase in the portion of the town’s tax rate needed to support municipal spending.
In part, that increase is small because the selectboard chose to apply $66,000 of an audited $216,000 surplus from the 2016 fiscal year toward tax reduction.
In Australian balloting on March 7, Ferrisburgh residents will join other Addison Northwest School District residents in voting on the proposed first-ever unified union budget of $21,116,289 to support the four ANWSD schools and its central office, plus the district’s share of the Hannaford Career Center budget.
That plan calls for a 1.68 percent increase over current district-wide ANWSD spending, but is slightly less than the 2015-2016 district spending total of $21,159,752.
Late-spring actions by the Legislature could change statewide tax rates, but according to ANWSD estimates using the rates initially recommended by state officials there could be a 14.7-cent decrease in Ferrisburgh’s residential school tax rate if the proposed budget is adopted.
A 14.7-cent decrease, independent of the impact of any change in the municipal tax rate needed to support town services, translates to a $294 lower tax bill on a $200,000 home.
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