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2018 Vergennes city meeting preview

VERGENNES — A big question — one worth $500,000 — on the March 6 ballot in Vergennes is whether residents will support the purchase of a new pumper truck for the Vergennes Fire Department.
The Vergennes City Council is asking voters to back a bond in that amount to fund a new fire truck to replace the department’s Engine 1, a 24-year-old pumper. Department leaders said the 1994 truck is becoming unreliable and expensive to repair.
City officials plan to seek a 20-year bond that should cost about $45,000 a year, assuming interest would be about 4 percent a year from now, when a truck would be built from scratch and then delivered if Vergennes voters back the proposal.
City Manager Mel Hawley said estimates are tricky, but he guessed the truck could add a penny to the city’s municipal tax rate, and possibly the same amount in Panton and Waltham. The impact on Ferrisburgh would be less, he said. 
Residents will weigh in on that issue and on Addison Northwest School District spending measures by Australian ballot at the fire station on Tuesday. Voting hours will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
No contested races are on the ballot. Three city council incumbents are running without opposition: Lynn Donnelly, Matt Chabot and Renny Perry, who as senior alderman recently took over as mayor following Michael Daniels’ resignation.
The terms of one of the city’s representatives on the ANWSD board, Mark Koenig, also expires on March 6. Koenig, also an alderman, filed to seek re-election without opposition.
The same list of nonprofit organizations will be requesting funding, with only one such organization seeking an increase: The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes is hoping residents will support a request of $5,000, up from $2,000.
Residents can also attend the annual city meeting on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Opera House to discuss, but not conduct, city business. The city council will approve a Vergennes municipal budget at the end of June.
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. The Vergennes residential school tax rate rose by 2.13 cents in 2017, or about 1.3 percent.
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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