2018 Ferrisburgh town meeting preview

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh offers the only major contested race for office among the communities that make up the Addison Northwest School District, and town residents will also weigh in on a major truck purchase as well as the selectboard’s proposed 2018-2019 budget.
A Ferrisburgh selectboard race was created because Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence chose to step down after 17 years on that board, a tenure that followed seven years on the Ferrisburgh zoning board.
Two residents filed petitions for her seat: Dennis Armell, who has twice run for the selectboard, and first-time candidate Jessica James. Voters will make that choice and decide on Addison Northwest School District spending by Australian balloting on Tuesday, March 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Ferrisburgh’s Route 7 town offices.
Armell, 63, most recently ran in 2015, when he lost to Michael “Red” Muir, who is running unopposed for another three-year term this March.
Armell retired from the Vermont Army National Guard 2015, and has also worked as an auto dealership department manager and as a dairy farmer. A member and former officer of Vergennes American Legion Post 14, he served on the Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission for 10-plus years and has worked with the county’s Riverwatch program and the Lewis Creek Association.
James, 36, is a fourth-generation Ferrisburgh resident and University of Vermont graduate who has worked for the past six years as a legal secretary and administrative assistant for Ouimette and Runcie in Vergennes. She said Lawrence encouraged her to run while James was visiting her two children at FCS, where James also volunteers.
Residents will make decisions on town spending from the floor of town meeting at Ferrisburgh Central School, which will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 3.
The Ferrisburgh selectboard is proposing a roughly $1.935 million town budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year that would raise spending by about 4.1 percent assuming voters also back charitable contributions on the ballot.
Selectboard members also adopted a town meeting warning that includes two more measures that could boost spending by another 1.8 percent: a $115,000 purchase of a loader at $23,000 a year for five years, and an increase in the highway department contingency fund by $10,000 to $40,000.  
Officials said if voters approve all spending articles the increases would total roughly $110,000 more than this year’s spending. They estimate that increase will translate to almost 3 cents more on the Ferrisburgh municipal tax rate.
The ANWSD board has proposed a $21.1 million budget that school officials estimate could increase the tax rate in ANWSD communities by about 8 cents, depending on final legislative decisions. Ferrisburgh saw a decrease in its school tax rate of almost 14 cents in the current year.
The ANWSD tax rate increases would mean around $80 of additional taxes per $100,000 of assessed value for those property owners who pay based solely on the value of their homes.
About two-thirds of area residents pay based on their income and would get prebates.
The ANWSD proposal shaves $10,000 from the current spending level, but a statewide tax rate increase and declining district enrollment is driving the local tax rate higher.
The adopted budget calls for eliminating three elementary school teaching jobs, the equivalent of three special education aides, and part-time administrative and nursing positions, for a total of 6.8 full-time equivalencies.
The ANWSD board is also proposing a $7.63 million bond that board members said would address a critical list of energy efficiency, fire safety and security problems at all four district schools.
Board members have emphasized that payments on a bond can be funded without increasing taxes due to savings through the energy improvements and revenue generated from a solar array proposed for the Vergennes Union High School roof, and because payments on the bond that funded the 2000 VUHS renovation and expansion will soon end.

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