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Town Meeting 2023 Preview

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ADDISON COUNTY — Here’s what to expect at each of the town meetings in Addison County this week.

ADDISON

ADDISON — Addison offers a contested race on its Town Meeting Day ballot, as well as decisions on a number of spending measures, most notably a request to support an improved town website as well as the proposed selectboard and highway budgets and nonprofit requests.

The area’s contested race comes for the Tri-Town Water District Board, for which Geoffrey Grant is challenging incumbent Tri-Town Water District Commissioner Steve Kayhart for a three-year term.

Elsewhere, incumbents are unopposed for major offices. Longtime selectboard member Rob Hunt is unopposed for another three-year term, and incumbent Addison Northwest School District (ANSWD) board member Amy Kittredge is alone on the ballot for three more years.

The selectboard is requesting $649,533.70 for non-road spending, with $444,178.91 to be raised in taxes. The spending request is up about $60,000 from the municipal spending approved a year ago.

The selectboard is asking residents to approve $911,054 of spending to maintain the town’s roads, with $732,009 to be raised by taxes. That request is up almost 2% from the $893,914 highway budget that voters approved in March 2022.

Of note elsewhere on Addison’s ballot is a request for residents to support $5,000 for professional maintenance of the town’s website (addisonvt.net), which in general now does not compare favorably with that of most other local communities.

Addison residents will meet with town officials at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 6, at the former Addison Central School to learn about and discuss issues, including delays in the Addison Town Hall project that was previously approved by voters, and then cast votes the next day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town clerk’s office next door.

There are requests from 18 nonprofits on the March 7 ballot, most notably $10,000 from the Town Line First Response Squad and $30,162 from the Bixby Library.

Also on the March 7 ballot is ANWSD spending. The ANWSD board’s proposed budget calls for an 11.3% spending increase to roughly $25.3 million. It preserves existing programs and adds a couple jobs, notably a middle school principal.

Officials said higher costs for salaries, health insurance, energy, transportation, property and liability insurance and Hannaford Career Center tuition are major factors driving spending higher.

Because of increased state funding for education, that higher spending will require only a 1.56-cent increase to the district tax rate to support it.

But due to higher property values, ANWSD communities have seen their Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) plummet by between roughly 5 and 12%, and because of that factor tax rates are expected to rise substantially in district towns.

In Addison it means an increase of about 23.6 cents in the residential school tax rate to an estimated $1.8569 per $100 of assessed property value, according to ANWSD estimates. Those estimates are based on current information, and the Legislature could still act to further aid local tax rates.

ANWSD tax rates in all five communities had also dropped in each of the five district communities over the past two years, including by about 9 cents less in Addison.

The estimated 2023-24 rate is also about 14 cents higher than the town’s 2020-21 rate, which is about an 8% increase over three years.

•  •  •  •

Brandon

BRANDON — Brandon residents on Tuesday, March 7, will be voting on three contested seats on the selectboard. Incumbent Brian Coolidge will face Marielle Blais for a three-year term. Elections for two one-year terms will see sitting selectboard members Seth Hopkins and Ralph Ethier on the ballot, as well as newcomer Cecil Reniche-Smith.

Susan Gage is running uncontested for three-year terms as both town clerk and town treasurer; she currently holds both positions. Jeff Haylon is running uncontested for a two-year term as a public library trustee.

There are two races with no announced candidates: town moderator and trustee of public funds. Both will be decided by write-in votes.

BRANDON ELECTION OFFICIALS help check in and get residents their ballots for Australian ballot voting at the Brandon American Legion Hall on Town Meeting Day 2022. Staffing the two stations were, left to right, Wendy Rowe Feldman, Bud Coolidge, Laura Peterson, Marge Munger and Hillary Knapp.
Independent file photo/Angelo Lynn

Voters will also be asked to approve spending $3,346,150 for the FY 2024 budget year, of which $2,737,260 is to be raised by property taxes. That represents an increase of approximately 3.6% from the previous year’s spending and an increase of approximately 1% in amount raised by taxes.

In addition to the $3.34 million in town spending, voters will be asked to approve raising taxes to fund:

• $7,000, Brandon Independence Day Celebration.

• $25,000, Brandon American Legion Post 55.

• $1,000, Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce.

• $82,580, Brandon Area Rescue Squad.

• $92,000, Brandon Free Public Library.

• $13,500, Brandon Senior Citizens Center.

• $1,000, Open Door Clinic, Community Health Services of Addison County, which provides access to dental and healthcare, free of charge, to those who are uninsured or under-insured.

• $550, RSVP & The Volunteer Center, for free income tax preparation and volunteer placements.

• $1,500, Rutland County Humane Society.

• $10,200, VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region.

• $2,500, Brandon Museum at the Stephen A. Douglas Birthplace Community Center.

• $2,900, Southern Vermont Council on Aging.

Brandon voters will also weigh in on a proposed Otter Valley Unified Union School District spending plan of $24,174,395, which would result in education spending of $18,629 per equalized pupil — 9.27% higher than spending for the current year.

The board representing the OVUUSD has no contested races. Kevin Thornton is running for a three-year-term representing Brandon. M. Fernanda Canales is running to complete one year of a three-year term representing Goshen. Brett Mullin is running to complete two years of a three-year term representing Pittsford.

Two at-large seats for the OVUUSD board are on the ballot: Jeremy Gildrien, Paul W. Lathrop, and Brent Scarborough are all running for the two three-year seats.

Brandon will gather for the annual town meeting on Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall. The only item on the agenda is to hear the selectboard’s explanation of town budget. Voting by Australian Ballot will take place the next day, March 7, at the Brandon American Legion Post 55, 550 Franklin St., between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

•  •  •  •

Bridport

BRIDPORT — A contested race for Bridport’s lone seat on the Addison Central School District (ACSD) board will highlight the town’s 2023 town meeting agenda.

It’s a race for a three-year term that features Suzanne Buck, the incumbent, versus challenger Hilda Stone. All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large, by voters in the district’s entire seven-town voting block that includes Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

There will also be competition for three other spots on the ACSD board:

• Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest will compete for a one-year spot representing Cornwall on the 13-member panel.

• Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff will compete for two Middlebury spots on the ACSD board.

Meanwhile, newcomer Ellie Romp is unopposed for Salisbury’s seat on the board.

Incumbent ACSD board reps Mary Gill and Victoria Jette of Middlebury, and Salisbury rep Jennifer Nuceder, decided not to seek re-election.

Bridport residents will decide a fiscal year 2024 highway spending plan of $1,204,843, which is around $105,000 more than this year’s spending plan. Town Clerk Julie Howlett cited inflation, rising fuel costs, wage increases and the proposed purchase of a dehumidifier for the town garage as some of the reasons for the increase.

The FY24 general fund request comes in at $342,043, around $20,000 more than this year’s $322,380 spending plan.

The warning features 27 separate financial requests, totaling $65,158, from various nonprofits that serve Addison County residents.

Bridport residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.77 per $100 of property value in Bridport — representing a 6-cent increase compared to this year.

There are no contested town elections this year. Tim Howlett and Drexel Wheeler are unopposed for terms of three years and two years, respectively, on the Bridport selectboard.

Bridport’s annual town meeting is slated for Tuesday, March 7, at 10:30 a.m. in the Bridport Masonic/Community Hall. The polls for voting by Australian ballot will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

•  •  •  •

Bristol

BRISTOL — Bristol will hold its annual town meeting at Holley Hall on Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. Voting by Australian Ballot to approve town and school district budgets, elect town and school officers and to approve the Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD) withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District will take place the following day, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Holley Hall.

The March 7 ballot will ask Bristol voters to approve three major town appropriations:

• $1,113,885 in General Fund spending, an increase of $156,460, or 16.3%, with $923,306 to be raised in taxes.

• $894,658 in Public Works/Highway spending, an increase of $63,888, or 7.7%, with $744,486 to be raised in taxes.

• $349,269 for the Arts, Parks, and Recreation Department budget, up $28,723, or around 9%, with $250,469 to be raised in taxes.

Residents will be asked to approve $146,381 for 30 voted appropriations to nonprofit organizations, an increase of $8,850, or 6.4%.

Voters will also be asked to distribute $36,000 of the 2022 undesignated fund balance among the Capital Building Fund, the Capital Technology Fund and the Cemetery Fund. Article 10 asks voters to authorize changing the name of the Capital Building Fund to the Capital Building and Maintenance Fund.

Residents that live in the Bristol Police District (primarily the village) will consider a proposed spending plan of $599,348, an increase of $94,769, or 18.8%, with $456,181 to be raised by taxes.

Voters in Bristol, as part of the MAUSD, will also be asked to approve the school district’s withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District, which includes the property transfer of the Lincoln Community School and bond. The Lincoln School District would also receive a negotiated portion of the MAUSD Education Reserve Fund, totaling $74,754.

There are no contested races on Bristol’s Town Meeting Day ballot this year. Selectboard incumbents John “Peeker” Heffernan (two-year-term) and Michelle Perlee (three-year-term) are both running unopposed.

All other candidates for town offices are running unopposed, except for in the second constable race, which has drawn no candidates.

Two of the town’s seats on the MAUSD Board are also up for election. MAUSD Board Vice Chair Krista Siringo of Bristol will run unopposed for a one-year-term. Another Bristol school board representative, Kris Pearsall, has decided not to run again. No candidates have come forward to run for the three-year-seat.

Bristol residents can still elect someone to fill Pearsall’s seat, if a write-in candidate receives the sufficient number of votes. Otherwise, the MAUSD board, in consultation with the town’s selectboard, will appoint a Bristol resident to fill the open spot.

The MAUSD’s annual meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. at Mount Abraham Union High School.

The March 7 ballot will ask voters to OK a $33,868,900 MAUSD spending plan for the 2023-2024 school year. The proposed plan reflects $22,915 in spending per equalized pupil, an increase of $3,088, or 15.52%.

MAUSD officials have estimated the spending plan would translate to a 7.15 cent increase in the education tax rate for Bristol residents that pay taxes based on the value of their home. Residents that pay based on their income would likely see a decrease in the FY24 tax rate.

District voters will also be asked to authorize the MAUSD Board to transfer up to $1.7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to the district’s general fund in order to pay for expenses related to the ongoing lobby and bathroom renovations at Mount Abraham Union High School. The Capital Reserve Fund has a current balance of $1,780,118.

Article 9 asks voters to authorize the deposit of $438,504 of the district’s unaudited fund balance into the Capital Reserve Fund.

•  •  •  •

Cornwall

CORNWALL — Cornwall residents on Town Meeting Day will help decide a contested race for their single seat on the Addison Central School District Board, the highlight of an otherwise basic to-do list for their annual gathering.

The local race is for the one-year remaining on former Cornwall ACSD rep Peter Conlon’s term, which he recently vacated in order to take the reins of the Vermont House Education Committee. The three people vying for the spot are Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest (who was picked to serve in the seat until the March 7 election).

Other contested races for the ACSD board on March 7 involve:

• Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff, vying for two three-year Middlebury spots on the panel.

• Incumbent Suzanne Buck and challenger Hilda Stone for a three-year term representing Bridport.

All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large, by voters in the district’s seven towns: Cornwall, Bridport, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

ESTHER THOMAS (LEFT) and Andy Hooper (second from right) hold signs outside the polls at Middlebury’s recreation facility off Creek Road on Town Meeting Day 2022. Thomas and Hooper each won three-year terms on the Middlebury selectboard.
Independent file photo/Steve James

There are no other contested elections on the Cornwall ballot. Incumbent Cornwall selectboard members Brian Kemp and Tanya Byker have no challengers for terms of three years and two years, respectively.

Ellie Romp is the lone candidate for Salisbury’s seat on the ACSD board.

Cornwall residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.63 per $100 of property value in Cornwall — representing a 9-cent decrease compared to this year.

In other action at their town meeting, Cornwall residents will:

• Be asked to OK a 2023-2024 general fund request of $535,400, up from this year’s spending plan of $505,072.

• Field an FY24 highway fund request of $535,150, up from this year’s ask of $476,100.

Cornwall Town Clerk Sue Johnson said the increases are due in part to the addition to health care benefits to a town highway position and training expenses for the assistant town clerk/treasurer.

• Be asked to appropriate $67,950 to support their local fire department.

• Earmark $4,000 for the Cornwall Free Public Library.

• Give a total of $34,445 to a variety of Addison County nonprofits that serve Cornwall residents.

Cornwall’s annual meeting will be on Saturday, March 4, at 10 a.m. in the Bingham Memorial School. Australian ballot voting will occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, at the Cornwall Town Hall.

•  •  •  •

Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — With no contested races, financial decisions will dominate Ferrisburgh’s town meeting and Australian balloting this Town Meeting Day.

There will be a new face on the Ferrisburgh selectboard, as current Chair Jessica James chose not to run again after five years on the board, the past three years as its leader.

Filing for the two-year term James is vacating was auditor and longtime Ferrisburgh planner Walter Reed. Meanwhile, multi-term selectboard incumbent Jim Benoit chose to run again, seeking another three years.

Also running unopposed are two incumbent Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) board members, Erica Andrus for a one-year term and Chris Kayhart for a three-year term. Kayhart is currently the board’s vice chair.

Voting for candidates and on the ANWSD budget will be held at the town’s Route 7 town offices from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7.

Decisions on town finances, including the selectboard budget and articles seeking approval for a grader purchase and $37,495 of charitable donations will be done from the floor of town meeting, also at town hall, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 4.

The selectboard has proposed a $2,455,992 budget (including the nonprofit donations) that would, if voters on March 4 approve, boost spending by around $90,000, or 3.8%.

Among budget drivers are higher costs for the highway department, liability insurance, the town’s share of Vergennes Fire Department spending and a $20,000 “personnel contingency” that could be used if the town needs to increase the hours and benefits in order to find a new treasurer to replace the retiring Deb Healey.

Town Clerk and Assistant Treasurer Pam Cousino estimated with an offset from anticipated growth in the town’s grand list the higher spending could add 1.5 cents to the municipal portion of the town’s tax rate, raising it to about 36 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The grader request is for $324,000, but the selectboard is proposing to put $200,000 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and $15,000 from the town highway department’s truck fund toward the purchase, leaving taxpayers to foot the $110,000 balance. Cousino said that spending would not affect the budget until next year.

Town officials said the March 4 town meeting will offer a Zoom option, but those who want to vote  on the financial questions will have to show up in person.

The ANWSD board proposed a budget that calls for a 11.3% spending increase of about $3 million to roughly $25.3 million. It preserves existing programs and adds a couple jobs, notably a middle school principal.

Officials said higher costs for salaries, health insurance, energy, transportation, property and liability insurance, and the Hannaford Career Center tuition are major factors driving spending higher.

Because of increased state funding for education, that higher spending in ANWSD will require only a 1.56-cent increase to the district tax rate to support it.

But due to higher property values, the five ANWSD communities have seen their Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) plummet by between roughly 5 and 12%, and due to that factor tax rates are expected to rise substantially in district towns.

In Ferrisburgh it means an increase of about 17 cents in the residential school tax rate, from about $1.5963 to a roughly $1.77 per $100 of assessed property value, according to ANWSD estimates. Those estimates are based on current information, and the Legislature could still act to further aid local tax rates, while some towns, including Ferrisburgh, are appealing their CLAs to the Vermont Department of Taxes.

ANWSD tax rates have dropped in each of the five district communities over the past two years. According to the ANWSD estimate, even with this year’s increase, Ferrisburgh’s 2023-24 residential school tax rate of $1.77 will be within a penny of the rates Ferrisburgh was assessed in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

•  •  •  •

Goshen

GOSHEN — While 2023 will mark a return to an in-person town meeting for most Vermont towns, Goshen met in-person last year and will again gather live at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 6, in Goshen Town Hall. Australian ballot voting is Tuesday, March 7, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. at the town hall.

However, what is, for some, a key component of the evening will be missing — no potluck dinner before the meeting. Town Clerk Rosemary McKinnon said this is due a change in the Municipal Building Access Policy, which was instituted by the current selectboard.

Selectboard Chair Bill Mathis said that the board was just enforcing a policy set up by a previous board that asked for those wishing to use town buildings to fill out a form.

That is among what is apparently a couple of complaints that could draw a large number of residents to the meeting.

“I think we’ll have a good turnout this year,” McKinnon said.

One topic that will draw voters will be whether the town will offer garbage, recycling and food waste collection. Apparently, there is dissention over how the selectboard awarded the trash pickup contract last year and some just want the town to get out of the trash business altogether. McKinnon said there has been trash pickup or drop-off at a central location for at least 20 years. If residents decide they want the town to be involved, then they will appropriate not more than $32,000 for one of two options: curbside pickup or central collection.

Selectman Mathis said that no citizen has told him that they don’t want trash pick up.

Voting on general town spending and road spending will also take place at town meeting. The general fund request is for $244,163. That is very close to the figure that was approved last year with no discussion. Residents will also vote on spending $176,500 to defray highway expenses, which is less than what was approved last year. The town has secured at least a half-million dollars in grants to fix Town Hill Road, which was a contentious issue last year. Also, the selectboard has set policy so that it must OK every expenditure on the roads, which might be keeping spending down. The board invites discussion on whether Goshen should outsource road maintenance to a third party so it wouldn’t have to keep and maintain equipment, nor would it have to track hours and manage road department employees.

Discussion on several topics could take place during the budget discussion, or during discussion, if there is any, on the selectboard report, which is the first article on the warning. In addition to question about trash collection, some people are upset over the building access policy and its requirement to get a permit to use the town hall for an event. Also, the selectboard removed a security camera from the town offices, and security cameras at other town venues are also in dispute as some people think they are unnecessary and ineffective while others think they are necessary and don’t understand why they were removed.

For his part, Mathis said the selectboard had a problem with the way the security cameras were managed, particularly the policy for who could look at the recordings. He said the board was planning to reinstall security cameras and institute a policy that at least two of the three selectboard members have to be present when security camera recordings are reviewed.

Meeting attendees will also decide if the three members of the town cemetery commission will change from being appointed to instead be elected by Australian ballot.

GOSHEN SELECTBOARD CHAIR David McKinnon explains a point of town business at the tiny community’s town meeting in 2022. Goshen was one of a few communities to hold an in-person town meeting last year.
Independent file photo/Steve James

It has been a tumultuous year for Goshen municipal government. Since the last town meeting, two of the three selectboard member abruptly resigned due to uncivil behavior shown toward them. The one remaining selectboard member, Thomasina Magoon, was just elected this past March. As a result, Tammy Walsh and Bill Mathis were appointed to the selectboard.

In Town Meeting Day voting, Goshen residents will be voting for two selectboard seats. Mathis will stand for a one-year seat with former Selectman David McKinnon also running for that position. Walsh will face Marci Hayes for a three-year seat. Hayes is also on the ballot for the position of first constable.

Also on that Tuesday, Goshen voters will weigh in on a proposed Otter Valley Unified Union School District spending plan of $24,174,395, which would result in education spending of $18,629 per equalized pupil — 9.27% higher than spending for the current year.

Fernanda Canales is running uncontested to complete one year of a three-year term representing Goshen on the OVUUSD board. There is a contest for two at-large seats for the OVUUSD board are on the ballot: Jeremy Gildrien, Paul W. Lathrop and Brent Scarborough are all running for the two three-year seats.

Goshen will also have the opportunity to vote on two other OVUUSD board seats. Kevin Thornton is running uncontested for a three-year-term representing Brandon, and Brett Mullin is running to complete two years of a three-year term representing Pittsford.

Editor’s note: This story was updated after its original posting to add additional information from the selectboard.

•  •  •  •

Granville

GRANVILLE — The residents who gather for the Granville Town Meeting on March 7 may not have much heated discussion to keep them awake, if the meeting agenda is any indication.

“It’s a sleeper,” said Town Clerk Cheryl Sargeant when asked about the expected high points of the gathering, which will take place next Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Granville Town Hall.

One item that could draw people to the meeting is the prospect of electing a new member for the Granville selectboard. Current board member Jennifer Stickney, who was appointed in the fall of 2020 and won the seat outright at town meeting in 2021, will not be running for re-election. Sargeant had not heard of anyone campaigning for the job, but it will be up for nominations and voting at Tuesday’s meeting.

“That seat’s open for anyone who wants it,” she said.

The big-money item on the agenda is the town budget, which was warned at $388,304, which is almost 3% higher than the $377,064 that voters approved at last year’s meeting (which was delayed until May so that residents could meet in person with less fear of spreading COVID-19). The town clerk said all of the $11,000 increase came in items outside the control of the selectboard, including insurance, ambulance charges and fuel. Sargeant noted that spending on the roads is budgeted to decrease 3.2%. There is $15,000 less budgeted for road sand because of left-over material and $5,000 less for road gravel because the board expects less to be needed, but roadside mowing and tree removal costs are up $9,000 and storm cleanup increases $500 because of more work is expected in those areas.

Voters will also be asked to put $6,000 more into the Highway Capital Investment Fund for road paving, and $5,000 into the Municipal Building Investment Fund for repainting municipal buildings.

•  •  •  •

Hancock

HANCOCK — When the residents of Hancock gather for their annual meeting in the town hall at 10 a.m. on Town Meeting Day, they will consider a proposed spending plan that is up around $38,000 from the figure approved last year — a 10 percent increase. But those who have read their town report closely will know that more than three-quarters of that increase can be chalked up to a change in accounting.

Last year voters approved municipal spending of $377,116, plus appropriations of $35,00 that included $23,335 for White River Valley Ambulance and $2,101 for the emergency medical response provided by Granville Volunteer Fire Department. The selectboard decided to move the White River Valley Ambulance and Granville FD medical response costs from the voted appropriations line to the Public Safety line in the main spending plan. The board is budgeting $25,848 for White River ambulance and $2,204 for Granville FD.

“We felt was a more appropriate place for these important public safety services,” board members wrote in the town report.

Bottom line is residents at the town meeting will vote on proposed municipal spending of $415,160. All but about $10,000 of the spending increase from last year can be accounted for in the public safety change. And nothing sticks out as responsible for that additional $10K.

“It was a lot of little things that added up,” Town Clerk Jody Jesso said. “All of our vendors have raised their prices. (The selectboard) cut some line items” to check the increase in total spending.

The property taxes picture is unclear. In addition to voting on town spending, Hancock residents will decide whether to authorize moving $90,326 from a money market account to the General Fund in order to reduce taxes. The money market was set up in the mid-1990s to accept state funds and grants, and over the years some of that money was transferred to other town accounts but not properly recorded. After making sure that none of the money was owed to outside contractors, the auditor suggested moving it to the General Fund, which the selectboard is putting to a vote of the people. In a way, it is a one-time windfall for taxpayers, though it really makes up for tax money that was spent here and there over the past two and half decades.

Also on Tuesday, town officers will be elected. A three-year term on the selectboard is up for a vote; board Chair Scott Gillette’s term expires that day, and Jesso was unsure whether he wished to be re-elected, nor hadn’t heard of others interested in the seat.

•  •  •  •

Leicester

LEICESTER — Even though this year’s Leicester town meeting — scheduled for Monday, March 6, 7 p.m. at the Leicester Meeting House — is for informational purposes only, some people in town are looking forward to it. Like most places in Vermont, this will be the first in-person town meeting since 2020.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Town Clerk Julie Delphia. “For small towns, town meeting is one of the few opportunities for the community to come together in one place and interact.”

Regardless of how well those human interactions go, Leicester residents will have some important decisions to make when they go to the polls between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Leicester Town Office. Perhaps the biggest will be giving a yes or no on proposed spending of $798,562, which represents an increase of $36,296, or 4.8%, from the figure approved last year. The meeting warning breaks out that proposed spending at $330,972 for general town spending and $467,590 for spending on roads.

Despite that hike in spending, the projected property taxes would actually slide almost $5,000, or 1%, to $590,319.

There are no contested elections for town office posts on the Town Meeting Day ballot. Vying for three- and two-year seats on the Leicester selectboard are incumbents Tom Barker and John Rouse. Town Clerk and Treasurer Julie Delphia is the only name on the ballot for three years in each of those positions.

Leicester voters will be asked to assist people in recovery from substance use disorder by putting forward $1,000 to the Turning Point Center of Addison County. Another petitioned item on the town warning asks if voters approve or deny the town authority to spend town funds to the Otter Creek Watershed Insect Control District (formerly the BLSG) to spay for mosquito — the petition didn’t specify an amount that could be spent.

Also on that Tuesday, Leicester voters will weigh in on a proposed Otter Valley Unified Union School District spending plan of $24,174,395, which would result in education spending of $18,629 per equalized pupil — 9.27% higher than spending for the current year.

Leicester has an open seat on the OVUUSD board with no one on the ballot; write-ins are welcome. Residents of Leicester may also vote in elections of other towns’ school directors, and there is a contest for two at-large seats for the OVUUSD board: Jeremy Gildrien, Paul W. Lathrop and Brent Scarborough are all running for the 2 three-year seats.

•  •  •  •

Lincoln

LINCOLN — Lincoln will return to holding its annual town meeting in-person this year. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 6, at 6 p.m. at Burnham Hall. Voting by Australian ballot to elect town officers and approve the Hannaford Career Center budget will take place the following day, Tuesday, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., also at Burnham Hall.

A four-way race for one open seat on the Lincoln selectboard is the only contested race on Lincoln’s Town Meeting Day ballot this year. The four candidates are vying for a two-year term in the seat currently held by incumbent Oakley Smith, who has announced he will not run again. Candidates in the race are Joe Martell, Dennis Filion, Conor McDonough and Jacob Pierce.

All other candidates for town positions are running unopposed, including selectboard incumbents Bill Finger (three-year-term) and Tim McGowan (three-year-term). McGowan was appointed by the selectboard in September to fill the vacancy left by Paul Forlenza’s resignation.

Lincoln voters will be asked to approve $450,732 in general fund spending, a decrease of $45,693, or 9.2%, with $276,559 to be raised in taxes.

Proposed highway spending would increase by $68,547, or 6.4%, to $1,137,604, with $950,788 to be raised by taxes.

Article 7 asks voters to authorize the deposit of $175,000 into Lincoln’s Paving Reserve Fund, the same amount as this year, in anticipation of future paving needs.

Six other articles on the Town Meeting Day warning ask voters to approve 26 voted appropriations totaling $41,860, which is $500, or 1.2% more than what was approved last year.

Voters will also be asked to authorize a sum of $10,000 for contracted law enforcement services.

The Lincoln School District will hold its annual meeting on April 11, during which voters will be asked to approve the school district budget, elect school board members and authorize the creation of a reserve fund to hold $74,754 in funds that the Lincoln School District is set to receive through its financial exit agreement with the Mount Abraham Unified School District when it separates from the larger district.

Also during the Lincoln School District’s annual meeting, voters will be asked to authorize spending the balance of the privately-raised funds in the Lincoln School District Transition Fund. The school district has raised over $90,000 to cover the one-time costs of forming an independent school district, which include legal fees, consultants and the recruitment and hiring of central office staff.

•  •  •  •

Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents are in store for interesting town meeting agenda, one that will include a vote on a $3.5 million water holding tank, a proposed change to the town charter, a switch in the tax-collection schedule, and some hotly contested school board races.

The new, 1.3-million-gallon tank would supplement an existing, 1.5 million-gallon receptacle on Chipman Hill that delivers municipal water to 6,000 year-round consumers in town. Town officials note a 2017 “sanitary survey” conducted by the state of Vermont that found the current Chipman Hill water storage facility undersized and unable to provide enough capacity for average-day demands.

Officials have decided to bond for project costs, with payback reduced by taking $1 million from Middlebury’s local option tax surplus fund.

The proposed Fiscal year 2023-2024 municipal spending plan comes in at $12,921,448, representing an 8.3% increase compared to this year. And while the $8,553,380 tax affecting portion of the spending plan reflects an 8.5% bump, town officials have made a few revenue adjustments — including dipping into the town’s local option tax surplus fund — that would limit the pain to a 4.5-cent (or 5.2%) increase in the municipal property tax rate.

“It is a level-service budget,” Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay said. “Like everyone, we were hit with a number of inflationary increases, wages, benefits, cost of fuel, cost of equipment. We’re also funding a couple of special capital improvement projects, in addition to our usual ambitious suite of projects.”

Those special projects include:

  • $160,000 for ongoing planning — including preliminary design work — for a major makeover of the Ilsley Library.
  • $50,000 for planning and site stabilization related to the planned realignment of the Court Street/Monroe Street/Charles Avenue intersection. In order to make that realignment possible, voters will be asked in a separate town meeting article to allow the use of up to $295,000 from the Cross Street Bridge Reserve Fund to buy (and remove) the former Maverick Gas Station at 82 Court St.

Other articles on Middlebury’s town meeting agenda include:

  • A proposal to apply up to $228,496 from the Cross Street Bridge Reserve Fund to help offset the tax impacts of the FY24 capital improvement budget, including $135,636 in debt service for renovations to one of the former Middlebury wastewater treatment plant buildings that will be used by the police department.
  • A proposal to change the town charter to make the town treasurer an appointed, rather than elected, position.
  • A suggested change in the town’s property tax payment schedule. Taxpayers currently pay their property taxes in three installments. The selectboard wants to change that to two equal installments for FY24, due on Nov. 15, 2023, and March 15, 2024. The Independent on Jan. 5 published an op ed from the town explaining the rationale behind the change.

Middlebury residents on Town Meeting Day will also help decide contested elections for four seats on the Addison Central School District Board — including two three-year spots representing Middlebury. Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff are competing for the Middlebury spots on the 13-member panel, which oversees preK-12 education for children in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

Meanwhile, incumbent Suzanne Buck faces challenger Hilda Stone for a three-year term representing Bridport on the ACSD board, while Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest are competing for a one-year term representing Cornwall.

All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large, by voters in the ACSD’s entire seven-town voting bloc.

There are no other contested elections on the Middlebury ballot. Incumbent Selectmen Dan Brown and Brian Carpenter are unopposed for new three-year terms, while incumbent selectboard member Isabel Gogarty is unchallenged for a two-year term.

Middlebury Town Clerk Ann Webster is not running, and no one will be on the ballot to replace her. If no one gains enough write-in votes for town clerk, Webster said she would continue for a few months to train a selectboard-appointed replacement.

Middlebury residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.67 per $100 of property value in Middlebury — representing a 1-cent decrease compared to this year.

Middlebury’s annual town meeting gathering is set for Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in the Middlebury Union High School auditorium. Australian ballot voting will occur the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town’s recreation center at 154 Creek Road.

•  •  •  •

Monkton

MONKTON — Monkton will return to holding its annual in-person town meeting this year. The meeting is scheduled for Saturday, March 4, at 10 a.m. at the Monkton Central School.

Voting by Australian ballot to elect town and school district officers and to approve the unified school district and Hannaford Career Center budgets and the withdrawal agreement between the Mount Abraham Unified School District and the Lincoln School District will take place on Tuesday, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Monkton Town Offices.

Monkton voters will be asked to approve $778,446.50 in general fund expenditures, an increase of $11,174, or 1.5%. Though, if approved, the amount of taxes to be raised for general fund spending — $553,036.50 — is $14,342.09 less than what was approved last March.

Other spending requests on the Monkton Town Meeting warning include:

• $873,135 in proposed highway spending, down $58,678.37, or 6.3%, with $636,946.20 to be raised by taxes.

• Up to $240,000 for the purchase of a Mack dump truck.

• $27,749 in total appropriations to 26 social service agencies, the same amount as this year.

Article 6 asks voters if the town should sell the 1859 Town Hall building. The town has been considering what to do with the former town hall ever since the new town offices were completed in 2021. Voters are also asked to adopt the proposed Unified Planning Document that was approved by the selectboard on Jan. 24, to amend and replace the town’s previous Unified Planning Document.

There are no contested races for town officer positions on the March 7 ballot. Selectboard incumbents John McNerney (two-year-term) and Walter Crandall (three-year-term) are running unopposed to keep their seats on the board. Crandall was appointed by the selectboard in January to serve out the balance of Bill Martin’s term.

No one has stepped forward to run for either of Monkton’s two open seats on the MAUSD board, both three-year terms. One of the seats opened up after longtime school board member and current board chair Dawn Griswold announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek re-election after over 20 years on the board.

The town’s other open school board seat has been vacant since it was created in September, when the MAUSD board was reapportioned to account for Lincoln’s withdrawal from the district. 

As members of the MAUSD, Monkton voters will be asked to approve the school district’s withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District. The agreement includes the property transfer of the Lincoln Community School and bond. The Lincoln School District would also receive a negotiated portion of the MAUSD Education Reserve Fund, totaling $74,754.

The MAUSD’s annual meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m., at Mount Abraham Union High School.

School district voters are asked to adopt a $33,868,900 spending plan for the 2023-2024 school year. The proposed plan reflects $22,915 in spending per equalized pupil, an increase of $3,088.40, or 15.52%.

MAUSD officials have estimated the spending plan would translate to an 8.68 cent increase in the tax rate for Monkton residents that pay education taxes based on the value of their home. Residents who pay based on their income — which is more than half of Vermonters — would likely see the amount of school taxes they pay go down a little bit, according to district officials’ estimates.

District voters will also be asked to authorize the MAUSD board to transfer up to $1.7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to the district’s General Fund in order to pay for expenses related to the ongoing lobby and bathroom renovations at Mount Abraham Union High School. The Capital Reserve Fund has a current balance of $1,780,118.

Article 9 asks voters to authorize the deposit of $438,504 of the district’s unaudited fund balance into the Capital Reserve Fund.

•  •  •  •

New Haven

NEW HAVEN — New Haven voters will elect two new faces to the town’s selectboard on Town Meeting Day, as well as consider the purchase of a piece of land that could eventually host a new fire station. The town will hold its 261st annual town meeting on Monday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m., at the Town Hall.

Voting by Australian ballot to approve town and school district budgets, elect town and school district officers and to approve the Mount Abraham Unified School District’s withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District will take place the following day, Tuesday, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., also at the New Haven Town Hall.

When considering the proposed spending included on New Haven’s March 7 ballot, it’s worth noting that the town budgets on a January-December calendar year, while the MAUSD budgets on a July-June fiscal year. Thus, school-related charges and payments show up in different New Haven fiscal years.

In this year’s annual report, New Haven Treasurer Danielle Hubbell explains, “You will see a large surplus in the general fund, but a large portion of that is school taxes that are collected in 2022 but not paid until 2023.”  As a result, Article 7 of the New Haven town meeting warning includes both a $600,000 “school payment” due and a $466,101.38 “2022 surplus.”

With that in mind, New Haven voters will be asked to approve:

  • $774,474 for general fund spending, an increase of 38,784.83, or 5.3%.
  • $600,000 for a school payment, an increase of $10,000, or 1.7%.
  • $1,285,297 for Road Fund Spending, up $57,604 or 4.7%, with $849,301 to be raised by taxes.
  • $26,358 in voted appropriations for local organizations, an increase of $750, or 2.9%.

Additionally, New Haven voters will be asked to consider spending up to $140,000 from the Reserve Facilities Fund to do major repairs to the façade of the Town Hall (including repairs to the front porch and making ADA-accessibility improvements).

The selectboard is also seeking permission to spend up to $70,000 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase five acres of land owned by VELCO on Route 17. Town officials have been looking for a piece of land on which to build a new fire station.

The March 7 ballot asks New Haven voters, as members of the MAUSD, to approve the school district’s withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District. The agreement includes the property transfer of the Lincoln Community School and bond. The Lincoln School District would also receive a negotiated portion of the MAUSD Education Reserve Fund, totaling $74,754.

There are no contested races on New Haven’s Town Meeting Day ballot, though voters will elect two new individuals to sit on their selectboard. Longtime member Steve Dupoise has decided to step down, and Michael Audy will run unopposed to fill that seat for a two-year-term. Selectboard Vice Chair Taborri Bruhl has also chosen not to run for another term. Marie Jewett is running unopposed for that three-year-term.

One of New Haven’s two seats on the MAUSD board remains open after being vacated by Patrick Lawrence in August. No candidates have filed to run for Lawrence’s spot. Unless a write-in candidate wins sufficient votes to be elected on Town Meeting Day, the MAUSD board, in consultation with the New Haven selectboard, will appoint a town resident to fill the board seat for a one-year term.

The MAUSD’s annual meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. at Mount Abraham Union High School.

The March 7 ballot will ask voters to adopt a $33,868,900 MAUSD spending plan for the 2023-2024 school year. The proposed plan reflects $22,914.77 in spending per equalized pupil, an increase of $3,088.40, or 15.52%.

MAUSD officials have estimated the spending plan would translate to an 8.14 cent increase in the education tax rate for New Haven residents that pay taxes based on the value of their home. Residents who pay based on their income — which is more than half of Vermonters — would likely see the amount of school taxes they pay go down a little bit, according to district officials’ estimates.

District voters will also be asked to authorize the MAUSD board to transfer up to $1.7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to the district’s general fund in order to pay for expenses related to the ongoing lobby and bathroom renovations at Mount Abraham Union High School. The Capital Reserve Fund has a current balance of $1,780,118.

Article 9 asks voters to authorize the deposit of $438,504 of the district’s unaudited fund balance into the Capital Reserve Fund.

•  •  •  •

Orwell

ORWELL — At the Orwell Town Meeting Day next Tuesday morning, Orwell residents will gather in person for the first time in three years.

“Everybody is kind of excited, this is when you get to see other people and everything,” said Orwell Town Clerk Betty Walker.

Meeting and greeting may be a big part of the meeting, which will convene at 10 a.m. on March 7 at the Town Hall, since the warning doesn’t include much in the way of controversial measures. Residents will discuss and vote on a proposed town budget of $1,364,712, which is a more than 10% increase than the $1,236,685 approved last year. But the amount of the 2023 spending plan that will be paid in taxes ($828,275) would see an increase of less than 3.5%, or less than the rate of inflation.

Walker explained that, unlike other recent budgets, the proposed town spending plan this year doesn’t have requests for road graders, half-ton pickups or fire trucks.

“The selectboard didn’t ask for anything new, we’re just doing the regular appropriation. No vehicles, nothing big,” Walker said. “This year we’re boring.”

One item on the warning strays from the usual. Article 4G asks voters to appropriate $10,000 to paint the exterior of the Wright Memorial Library Building. The town doesn’t own the building, but voters in the past have OK’d putting a new roof on it.

All of the town business is done at the town meeting except for electing town officials; that is done by Australian ballot.

Orwell residents will see familiar names on the ballot — only incumbents are running for election to the 16 town offices. The one exception is the three-year term for an auditor, for which there is no name on the ballot; but Town Clerk Walker has heard that a citizen is considering whether to ask fellow Orwellians to write in his name on the ballot.

Otherwise, the ballot includes Rex D. Corey to return to the selectboard for three years, Bill Goddard for a two-year selectboard seat, Bryan S. Young for town treasurer and Walker for town clerk, among others. On the Slate Valley Unified School District ballot, incumbent school board member John Wurzbacher is up for a vote on a three-year term.

Orwell voters on March 7 will also vote on the Slate Valley school budget, along with residents of Fair Haven, Castleton, Hubbarton, Benson and West Haven. The school spending plant is warned at $28,056,400, which represents an increase of a little less than 7% from the figure that voters approved last year after rejecting the spending plan once.

•  •  •  •

Panton

PANTON — In Town Meeting Day Australian balloting Panton voters will weigh in on higher town spending, a truck purchase, the elimination of a town position, and several unopposed candidates.

Panton residents will cast their votes on March 7 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. upstairs in Panton Town Hall. The town’s informational meeting will be held at the same venue at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 6.

The selectboard has proposed spending for the 2023-2024 fiscal year in the amount of $842,441, of which $703,672 would be funded by taxes. That, if approved on March 7, would be an increase of about $86,000 over the spending residents approved in March 2022.

Panton Town Clerk and Treasurer Maggie McCormick said more than half of the increase is due to a revenue shortfall from a previous fiscal year, another $19,000 comes from increased personnel costs for the town’s highway department, and most of the rest is due to inflation.

The selectboard is also asking voters authorize the town to borrow up to $250,000 to buy a new International dump/plow truck, payable for up to five years. McCormick said the loan payments would not take effect during the upcoming fiscal year if the measure is approved.

The board is also asking voters to approve a series of annual capital fund requests totaling $65,500, an amount that is unchanged from a year ago.

Nonprofit requests on the ballot are up slightly, to $13,501 from $11,301.

Another ballot article recommends Panton eliminate the positions of lister, which have gone begging recently in the town. According to McCormick, the board believes given the lack of civic engagement and the growing complexity of the job the town would be better off continuing to hire professionals. McCormick also noted there have been related costs, including software, insurance and consultants, to support a board of listers.

In voting for town offices, incumbent selectboard member Zach Weaver will face no competition on the ballot for his post, nor will John DeGraaf, who signed up to run for one-year on the Vergennes-Panton Water District board. Barring a write-in campaign, there could be a vacancy on that latter board: Meddie Perry’s term on the water district board expired, and no one filed papers to fill the vacancy.

For the Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) board, the appointed incumbent Martha DeGraaf is seeking a full three-year term without opposition.

Also on the March 7 ballot is ANWSD spending. The ANWSD board’s proposed budget calls for an 11.3% spending increase to roughly $25.3 million. It preserves existing programs and adds a couple jobs, notably a middle school principal.

Officials said higher costs for salaries, health insurance, energy, transportation, property and liability insurance, and the higher Hannaford Career Center tuition are major factors driving spending higher.

Because of increased state funding for education, that higher spending will require only a 1.56-cent increase to the district tax rate to support it.

But due to higher property values, ANWSD communities have seen their Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) plummet by between roughly 5 and 12%, and because of that factor tax rates are expected to rise substantially in district towns.

In Panton that means an increase of about 10.5 cents in the residential school tax rate to an estimated $1.7042 per $100 of assessed property value, according to ANWSD estimates. Those estimates are based on current information, and the Legislature could still act to further aid local tax rates.

ANWSD tax rates in all five communities had also dropped in each of the five district communities in recent years.

The estimated 2023-24 rate is about 20 cents lower than the Panton’s 2020-21 rate of $1.9005.

•  •  •  •

Ripton

RIPTON — Ripton residents at their annual meeting will decide whether to spend $257,933 for general fund expenses and $477,990 for anticipated highway needs during fiscal year 2023-2024.

The general fund ask is roughly $11,000 more than this year, while the highway spending plan reflects a roughly $51,000 increase.

Other articles on what officials acknowledge is a fairly routine warning include requests for:

• The use of $35,000 in previously approved (May 9, 2022) from the Ripton School District to reduce taxes.

• $44,840 to pay anticipated FY24 expenses for Ripton Volunteer Fire and First Response Department.

• $6,000 to the Ripton Cemetery Commission.

• Permission to spend up to $75,000 from Ripton’s American Rescue Plan Act funds for a solar installation to provide electricity for the town buildings and streetlights.

• Permission to set a property tax collection date of Nov. 1, 2023.

• Appropriations ranging from $50 to $5,880 for various nonprofits that serve Ripton residents.

Ripton voters on Town Meeting Day will also help decide contested elections for four seats on the Addison Central School District Board. One of those races involves Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff, who are competing for two three-year terms representing Middlebury on the 13-member panel, which oversees preK-12 education for children in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

Suzanne Buck faces challenger Hilda Stone for a three-year term representing Bridport on the ACSD board, while Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest are competing for a one-year term representing Cornwall.

All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large, by voters in the ACSD’s entire seven-town voting bloc.

There are no other contested elections on the Ripton ballot. Incumbent Selectboard member Laurie Cox is unchallenged for another three-year term.

Ripton residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.76 per $100 of property value in Ripton — representing a 9-cent decrease compared to this year.

Ripton’s annual gathering is set for Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at the Ripton Community House. Australian ballot voting will occur the next day at the same location, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

•  •  •  •

Salisbury

SALISBURY — Town Meeting Day in Salisbury will include the usual series of budget votes and contested elections for first constable and several posts on the Addison Central School District board.

Residents will field a fiscal year 2024 general fund budget of $348,684 (up from this year’s spending plan of $331,081) and a highway department ask of $515,550, representing an increase of roughly $10,000.

Other articles on Salisbury’s 2023 Town Meeting Day warning include requests for:

• $3,900 to complete a survey of a town-negotiated conservation easement located on Upper Plains Road.

• Permission to apply roughly $30,000 in surplus funds to lower the FY24 tax rate.

• Public feedback on whether the Otter Creek Watershed Insect Control District (formerly known as the BLSG) should apply adulticide in its mosquito-control efforts next fiscal year.

• A total of $98,270 to support a variety of area nonprofits that serve Salisbury residents.

In the town’s lone contested race, Ryan Emilio and Jeff McDonough are vying for a one-year term as town constable.

Salisbury’s lone seat on the ACSD board is up for grabs, but Ellie Romp is the only candidate for the three year-post. Also unopposed is Jonathan Blake, for a two-year term on the selectboard. There are currently no takers for a three-year spot on the selectboard.

Also of note: Salisbury Town Clerk Sue Scott has decided not to seek re-election, and no one has stepped up to run for her job. Scott said she’s ready to move on to other things but has told the selectboard she’s willing to serve until the end of June to allow for the appointment of a new town clerk.

Salisbury residents on Town Meeting Day will help decide contested elections for four seats on the ACSD board, which oversees preK-12 education for children in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff are competing for two three-year spots representing Middlebury on the 13-member panel.

At the same time, incumbent Suzanne Buck faces challenger Hilda Stone for a three-year term representing Bridport on the ACSD board, while Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest are competing for a one-year term representing Cornwall.

All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large, by voters in the ACSD’s entire seven-town voting bloc.

Salisbury residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.84 per $100 of property value in Salisbury — representing a 6-cent increase compared to this year.

The town’s annual gathering will be held at Salisbury Community School on Saturday, March 4, at 2 p.m. Australian ballot voting will take place Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the town office.

•  •  •  •

Shoreham

SHOREHAM — Shoreham residents at their town meeting will decide municipal and highway budgets of $425,553 and $980,430, respectively, for fiscal year 2024.

The proposed highway spending plan is roughly $68,000 higher than this year, while the town budget request represents around a $50,000 increase.

Town Clerk Julie Ortuno said the proposed increases are largely due to inflation and salary increases.

Other items on this year’s town meeting agenda seek:

• Authorization to appoint a town clerk/treasurer. No one is challenging Ortuno for that post.

• Permission to set Nov. 10 as the due date for FY24 property tax payments.

• Requests ranging from $400 to $5,000 for various area nonprofits that serve Shoreham residents.

Shoreham residents on Town Meeting Day will also help decide contested elections for four seats on the Addison Central School District board. Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff are all competing for two three-year terms representing Middlebury on the 13-member panel, which oversees preK-12 education for children in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

Meanwhile, incumbent Suzanne Buck faces challenger Hilda Stone for a three-year term representing Bridport on the ACSD board, while Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest are competing for a one-year term representing Cornwall.

All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large by voters in the ACSD’s entire seven-town voting bloc.

There are no other contested elections on the Shoreham ballot. Incumbent Selectman Peter Lynch is unopposed for a new three-year term, while selectboard members Molly Francis and Ruth Bernstein are unchallenged for one-year terms.

Shoreham residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.69 per $100 of property value in Shoreham — representing a 4-cent increase compared to this year.

Shoreham’s annual gathering will be held in its elementary school auditorium on Monday, March 6, starting at 6 p.m. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the town office.

•  •  •  •

Starksboro

STARKSBORO — Starksboro will join other Addison County towns in holding its annual town meeting in-person this year, after two years of remote meetings throughout the pandemic. Starksboro’s meeting is scheduled for Saturday, March 4, at 9 a.m. in the multipurpose room of Robinson Elementary School.

Voting by Australian ballot to elect town and school district officers and to approve the unified school district and Hannaford Career Center budgets and the Mount Abraham Unified School District’s withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District will take place on Tuesday, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., also at Robinson Elementary School.

Starksboro voters will be asked to approve:

  • $1,149,578 in General Fund spending, an increase of $81,032, or 7.6%, with $773,862 to be raised by taxes.
  • $57,495 for the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund, an increase of $5,227, or 10%.
  • $112,589 for the Road Equipment Reserve Fund, up $6,373, or 6%.
  • $40,000 for the Paving Reserve Fund, the same amount approved last year.
  • $43,667 for the Starksboro Public Library, an increase of $4,189, or 10.6%.
  • $5,894 for the 911 ambulance service provided by Richmond Rescue for Starksboro residents.
  • $50,200 for seven in-town requests and $29,636 for 26 out-of-town requests.

Article 9 in the Starksboro Town Meeting Day warning asks voters to authorize the selectboard to borrow up to $496,849 to buy a replacement pumper. The loan would be paid within five years from the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund, with the first payment due during the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

There are no contested races for town officer positions on the March 7 ballot. Selectboard incumbents Carin McCarthy (three-year-term) and Eric Cota (two years) are running unopposed to keep their seats.

Kristen Toy is running unopposed for a two-year-term on the MAUSD board. Toy was appointed by the MAUSD board in September to fill a vacancy. The spot on the board was created earlier that month following a reapportionment of the school board that accounted for Lincoln’s withdrawal from the district.

Article 17 asks Starksboro voters, as members of the MAUSD, to approve to approve the school district’s withdrawal agreement with the Lincoln School District. The agreement includes the property transfer of the Lincoln Community School and bond. The Lincoln School District would also receive a negotiated portion of the MAUSD Education Reserve Fund, totaling $74,754.

The MAUSD’s annual meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. at Mount Abraham Union High School.

The March 7 ballot will ask voters to adopt a $33,868,900 spending plan for the 2023-2024 school year. The proposed plan reflects $22,914.77 in spending per equalized pupil, an increase of $3,088.40, or 15.52%.

MAUSD officials have estimated the spending plan would translate to a 6.88 cent increase in the education tax rate for Starksboro residents that pay taxes based on the value of their home. Residents who pay based on their income — which is more than half of Vermonters — would likely see the amount of school taxes they pay go down a little bit, according to district officials’ estimates.

District voters will also be asked to authorize the MAUSD board to transfer up to $1.7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to the district’s general fund in order to pay for expenses related to the ongoing lobby and bathroom renovations at the high school. The Capital Reserve Fund has a current balance of $1,780,118.

Article 9 asks voters to authorize the deposit of $438,504 of the district’s unaudited fund balance into the Capital Reserve Fund.

•  •  •  •

Vergennes

VERGENNES — Vergennes has two contested races for major offices on the ballot on March 7, when its residents will also decide a a proposed 2023-24 Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) spending plan.

Residents won’t be voting on city spending in March; the Vergennes City Council sets the city’s annual budget and municipal tax rate in late June.

Four candidates are seeking three two-year terms on the city council: incumbents Ian Huizenga and Sue Rakowski and challengers Cheryl Brinkman and Don Perley. Perley doesn’t currently hold an official position in Vergennes, while Brinkman serves on the Vergennes Planning Commission and Energy Committee and as the city representative to the Addison County Solid Waste Management District.

Sitting Mayor Matt Chabot opted not to seek re-election this year, and Vergennes-Panton Water District Board Co-Chair and city lister Chris Bearor is the only candidate on the ballot to replace him.

Michael Kane, appointed to the ANWSD board this past fall, is running unopposed to keep his seat for another two years. Meanwhile, two candidates will square off for a three-year term on that board: Chrystal Little and Margaret Carrera-Bly. Both had also sought the appointment that went to Kane.

Little, a parent of a Vergennes Union High School senior, in her initial application noted she is a former officer and active member of the Commodore Friends of Music, a costume department co-leader for the annual school musical, a regular music department chaperone, a former AAU basketball board member, and an assistant varsity softball coach.

Carrera-Bly works remotely for a San Francisco firm that consults nationally with statewide and classroom-level science education programs. Before that, she worked for five years for the Vermont Department of Education as a science specialist and taught three years at Otter Valley Union High School. She is a Vergennes Union Elementary School parent.

Elsewhere on the ballot, real estate appraiser and former Middlebury town assessor, Vergennes mayor and city councilor Bill Benton is unopposed to be a lister. Incumbent Vergennes-Panton Water District Board members Patricia Ganson and Bruce MacIntire are seeking new three-year terms.

Vergennes residents will also be asked to weigh in on an article regarding the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

It asks whether Vergennes should “establish a reserve fund to be called the Infrastructure Improvement Fund for the purpose of funding capital improvements including but not limited to city facilities, parks, and sidewalks to be funded by Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds totaling $723,257.72.”

Information on that article and other city issues will be available at the city’s annual informational meeting, to be held Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in the Vergennes Opera House.

Australian ballot voting will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, at the Vergennes Fire Station at 50 Green St.

The last question on that March 7 ballot relates to ANWSD spending. The ANWSD board’s proposed 2023-2024 budget calls for an 11.3% spending increase, to roughly $25.3 million. It preserves existing programs and adds a couple jobs, notably a middle school principal.

Officials said higher costs for salaries, health insurance, energy, transportation, property and liability insurance, and the Hannaford Career Center tuition are major factors driving spending higher.

Because of increased state funding for education, that higher spending will require only a 1.56-cent increase to the district tax rate to support it.

But due to higher property values, ANWSD communities have seen their Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) plummet by between roughly 5 and 12%, and because of that factor tax rates are expected to rise substantially in district towns.

In Vergennes it means an increase of almost 21 cents in the residential school tax rate, from $1.7481 per $100 of assessed property value to an estimated $1.9574, according to ANWSD estimates. Those estimates are based on current information, and the Legislature could still adjust aid to soften local tax rate increases. Some municipalities, including Vergennes, are appealing their CLAs to the Vermont Department of Taxes.

ANWSD tax rates in all five communities have dropped in each of the communities over the past two years, including by 10 cents in Vergennes.

The estimated 2023-24 rate is about 11 cents higher than the city’s 2020-21 rate of $1.8458, about a 6% increase over three years.

•  •  •  •

Waltham

WALTHAM — Decisions on municipal officers and spending are returning to traditional fashion in Waltham — from the floor of town meeting, which Waltham will hold in its town hall at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 6.

The only decision to be made by Australian balloting on March 7 will be on the proposed 2023-24 Addison Northwest School District budget.

The only major office coming open in Waltham is on the selectboard, where Don Ross’s term will expire. He and any other candidates can be nominated from the floor, where that election and spending articles such as the budget and nonprofit donations will be decided by voice vote, unless a paper ballot is requested.

Other town officers to be chosen include moderator, collector of delinquent taxes, lister and auditor.

The selectboard is proposing $269,925 of general fund and road spending, which if approved would represent an increase of a little less than $10,000 from last year. Town Clerk and Treasurer Linda Devino said there are no major drivers, but rather a number of smaller increases are pushing spending higher.

Residents on March 6 will again be asked to provide $10,692 in support to the Bixby Free Memorial Library, an amount based on a per-capita figure for Waltham’s share of the population the Vergennes library serves. Eight other nonprofit entities are requesting a total of $3,729.

The ANWSD board’s proposed budget calls for an 11.3% spending increase to roughly $25.3 million. It preserves existing programs and adds a couple jobs, notably a middle school principal.

Officials said higher costs for salaries, health insurance, energy, transportation, property and liability insurance, and Hannaford Career Center debt service are major factors driving the budget higher.

Because of increased state funding for education, that higher spending will require only a 1.56-cent increase to the district tax rate to support it.

But due to higher property values, ANWSD communities have seen their Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) plummet by between roughly 5 and 12%, and because of that factor tax rates are expected to rise substantially in district towns.

In Waltham it means an increase of about 25 cents in the residential school tax rate, from $1.6218 per $100 of assessed property value to an estimated $1.8736, according to ANWSD estimates. Those estimates are based on current information, and the Legislature could still act to further aid local tax rates.

ANWSD tax rates in all five communities have dropped over the past couple years; Waltham’s dropped by 10 cents a year ago.

Waltham’s school tax rate has yo-yoed in recent years, but overall hasn’t risen dramatically; the estimated 2023-24 school tax rate is about a 9% increase over Waltham’s 2020-21 rate of $1.7231.

•  •  •  •

Weybridge

WEYBRIDGE — Weybridge residents at their town meeting will vote on whether to extend the term of their town constable, set new guidelines for delinquent taxes, forge a deeper relationship with Middlebury’s Ilsley Library, and support several financial requests.

Weybridge officials are proposing fiscal year 2024 spending plans of $551,000 for the highway department (up from $524,700 this year) and $177,000 for town operations, representing a $2,200 increase.

Other articles on the 2023 Weybridge warning seek:

• $25,000 in support of the town’s volunteer fire department.

• $13,000 to continue the town-sponsored volunteer recycling program through June 30 of next year.

• A change in the late tax penalty. It calls for payments received after the due date to be assessed interest at the rate of 1% for the first three months and 1.5% thereafter.

• A two-year term for the elected town constable, which is currently a one-year post.

• Permission for the town to enter into an agreement with the Ilsley Library to provide memberships for all adults in Weybridge. Students in Weybridge and the six other Addison Central School District (ACSD) towns already have access to Ilsley Library services.

• Appropriations ranging from $94 to $2,500 for nonprofit organizations that serve Weybridge residents.

There are no contested elections for Weybridge positions this year. Incumbent Selectman T. Charles Jordan is unchallenged for another three years on the board, while William Mayers is alone in seeking a two-year term.

But Weybridge residents on Town Meeting Day will help decide contested elections for four seats on the ACSD board. Tricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff are competing for two three-year spots representing Middlebury on the 13-member panel, which oversees preK-12 education for children in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

Meanwhile, incumbent Suzanne Buck faces challenger Hilda Stone for a three-year term representing Bridport on the ACSD board, while Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest are competing for a one-year term representing Cornwall.

All candidates for the ACSD board are elected at-large, by voters in the ACSD’s entire seven-town voting bloc.

Weybridge residents will field a proposed fiscal year 2024 ACSD budget of $42,269,305, which represents a 7.2% increase in education spending and an 8.1% hike in the cost per equalized pupil. If approved, the budget is expected to create a new education property tax rate of $1.65 per $100 of property value in Weybridge — representing a 4-cent increase compared to this year.

The town’s annual gathering will be held at Weybridge Elementary School on Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town office.

•  •  •  •

Whiting

WHITING — At last year’s in-person town meeting, no one asked questions about the proposed town spending plan and it was approved by voice vote. Will it be such smooth sailing this year?

Perhaps it will: the warned figure for town spending went up, but the amount that would come from property taxes went down.

The legal voters of Whiting will meet on Tuesday, March 7, at 7:15 p.m. After meeting in the firehouse last year, the town meeting will return to the Whiting Town Hall, which saw its foundation and drainage problems fixed in the past year, as well as having its floors redone and interior painting and facelift done with the help of Heather and Tom Bouchard.

The one money item on the warning asks for $455,260 for town expenses, which is $44,042, or 10.7%, higher than what was OK’d last year. The selectboard said this budget would require $289,304 in taxes, which is $1,784, or less than 1%, lower than was asked for last year.

Whiting residents will also nominate and vote for 11 town officers. On the top of the list are town clerk and treasurer, a job currently held by Heather Bouchard. A three-year term on the selectboard is also up for grabs; Steve Quenneville is the incumbent. Bouchard said that both she and Quenneville were willing to be nominated and would be happy to serve again if the voters at the meeting elect them.

Other officeholders that will be voted upon include lister, auditor, first constable, tax collector and four library trustees.

Whiting does all its municipal business at its town meeting, but residents on Tuesday will go to the polls at the town hall, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., on Tuesday to weigh in on a proposed Otter Valley Unified Union School District spending plan of $24,174,395, which would result in education spending of $18,629 per equalized pupil — 9.27% higher than spending for the current year.

There is not a Whiting opening on the OVUUSD board, but residents of Whiting may vote in elections of other towns’ school directors. There is a contest for two at-large seats for the OVUUSD board: Jeremy Gildrien, Paul W. Lathrop and Brent Scarborough are all running for the 2 three-year seats.

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