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Vergennes town meeting preview 2020

VERGENNES — As well as expressing their preferences in the Presidential primary, on March 3 Vergennes residents will decide among four candidates for three seats on the city council.
Seeking office are two council incumbents, Deputy Mayor Lynn Jackson Donnelly and Alderman David Austin, and two seeking to become councilors for the first time, Tara Brooks and Rebecca Rey.
Vergennes also has competition for an open seat to represent the city on the Addison Northwest School District board. Martha DeGraaf and Jena Santa Maria are running to fill the vacancy created when ANWSD Board Chairwoman Sue Rakowski announced in January she would not seek re-election.
Voting will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the city’s Green Street fire station. Voters may also gather at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2, in the Vergennes Opera House to discuss city issues.
The council has also placed two advisory questions on the ballot.
Councilors are asking if residents support the idea of changing the city charter to increase council members’ terms, including that of the mayor, from two to three years. They said they are considering the measure to create less turnover in the city council in any single year — their plan is to stagger terms of varying lengths when the change first takes effect.
Councilors would also like to know if residents would support giving non-citizen legal residents the right to vote in municipal, but not statewide or federal, elections.
 Unlike residents in other county communities, those in Vergennes do not vote on city spending on Town Meeting Day. The city council will adopt a tax rate and spending for the 2020-2021 fiscal year in June. That budget will include nonprofit requests that are on the March 3 ballot.
Vergennes will join the other four ANWSD communities on March 3 in weighing in on a proposed 2020-2021 budget of $21,842,595 that would reduce spending by about $300,000, or 1%, over the current year.
ANWSD officials said the plan would avoid programming cuts and close Addison Central School (ACS) for use as an elementary school, instead repurposing it for alternative education. Addison’s elementary students will attend Vergennes Union Elementary School regardless of the vote outcome, officials said.
According to late-January estimates, the district-wide tax rate would rise by almost 4 cents if the budget is approved. Without the ACS closure, that increase would have been closer to 10 cents, according to ANWSD officials.

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