Panton Town Meeting Preview 2019

PANTON — Panton residents will cast ballots between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on March 5 at Panton Town Hall on town and school spending.
The town’s annual meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, but for the first time it will be for discussion purposes only.
The town’s 2019-2020 budget cannot be amended at the meeting. Voters will decide by Australian ballot on Tuesday on the Panton selectboard’s proposed spending.
The budget includes a line item of $4,140 to begin paying for an aluminum cupola for Panton Town Hall to replace the deteriorating wooden one removed eight years ago. According to the selectboard its $52,000 cost will be half or less than a new wooden cupola, it will last longer, be cheaper to maintain, and look almost identical.
The selectboard also cut the $38,775 Town Hall Restoration Fund line item back to $15,000. At the past two town meetings residents have boosted that line item to that higher amount.
Some residents prefer a wooden cupola, and say grant support could make up the cost difference. If a majority agrees, they would have to vote down the budget and lobby the selectboard to propose a satisfactory new one.
As it stands, the proposed budget would rise by $11,351 to $624,996 — including separately warned reserve funds and nonprofit donations — and trigger a tax increase of less than a penny.
The cut in the Town Hall Restoration Fund is offsetting increases in town employee salaries and the cost of winter salt and sand for town roads, among smaller spending hikes.
This is also the first year in Panton that elective positions will be decided by town-wide Australian balloting. No races are contested. Panton Selectboard Chairman Howard Hall is seeking another three years on the board.
Residents in Panton and the other four Addison Northwest School District communities on Town Meeting Day will also vote on a 2019-2020 budget of $22,139,341 to fund the four ANWSD schools and the district’s share of Hannaford Career Center.
After a year of level district spending, that proposed budget would increase spending by about $1.03 million, or about 4.7 percent.
School officials estimated in four of the five communities school tax rates might rise by about 9 cents, but cautioned that number could move up or down depending on decisions made in Montpelier and the district’s final student count.
In Panton, the only town with a Common Level of Appraisal below 100 percent (96.8), the final tax rate will be slightly higher.
Declining enrollment and rising costs are driving the tax rate higher. School administrators said increases are being driven by the cost of health benefits rising by 11.8 percent, salaries for teachers and support staff that expected to rise once ongoing negotiations for new contracts conclude, and transportation costs going up by 13 percent.

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