2018 Panton town meeting preview

PANTON — Panton voters will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6, when they will make several decisions about their town hall.
But they won’t be meeting in Panton Town Hall.
Because of ongoing work to the building and the fact that its handicap ramp is currently unusable, the Panton selectboard decided to move town meeting to a site that is “an officially ADA-qualified location.”
That would be Panton’s town garage, and it will host town meeting this March.
There residents will decide whether to spend $100,000 from a surplus in the town’s general fund to pay for a new handicap access ramp to town hall’s second level and for the renovation of that floor’s two bathrooms to be handicap accessible. If any funds are unspent, the board would like them to remain in a fund dedicated to town hall repairs and maintenance. The selectboard strongly supports this article.
The board is also asking residents whether the town should borrow $100,000 to finally put Panton Town Hall’s cupola back on its roofline. It was removed a number of years ago to reduce the cost of a roofing project.
Panton still has funding remaining on a $25,000 Cerf Foundation grant to use toward the project, once roughly estimated at $75,000. Board Chairman Howard Hall said the board wanted to be sure to have enough funding on hand to complete the work if residents support it.
Town Hall Committee Chairman David Raphael said the actual cost of the project is lower than $100,000 especially considering the grant funds. Raphael also said money available to the town from funds related to the Green Mountain Power solar array could be put toward the project, which enjoyed support in a survey of town residents.
A third project, a $55,000 effort to install a kitchen on the main level of town hall, did not make it onto the ballot, according to the Hall, because the selectboard did not have needed information by the deadline to file the warning.
Raphael said information is available, and some residents are considering amending the warning to allow consideration of that project at town meeting.
As for the rest of the $141,000 surplus, the selectboard is asking residents to approve another $40,000 from that fund balance to help pay for a new Mack truck with a plow and other attachments. The board also will ask permission to borrow another $25,000 to complete the purchase.
The selectboard is also proposing a $686,102 general fund budget, one that calls for an increase of $38,700 that is largely driven by the higher cost of employees’ health insurance.
Another $61,000 of financial requests face residents for various Town Reserve Funds, including $20,000 each for the Highway Capital Equipment Fund and the Highway Capital Project Fund and $15,000 for the Town Hall Restoration Fund.
One term expires in Panton, that of Selectwoman Teresa Smith. Smith reportedly is willing to be nominated from the floor of town meeting.
Panton residents will also weigh in by Australian ballot from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town clerk’s office in the basement of town hall (which is handicap accessible), on Addison Northwest School District spending.
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. Panton’s homestead tax rate rose by 0.59 cent in 2017.
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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