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Town Meeting 2024 Preview

CITIZENS OFTEN COME to town meeting with their annual town report in hand, like Laura Siebecker, who took her turn to weigh in at the 2023 Shoreham town meeting. Independent file photo/John S. McCright

ADDISON COUNTY — Here’s what to expect at each of the town meetings in Addison County this week. Just want to know when and where your town meeting is? Find that info here.

ADDISON

Addison this year boasts the most crowded Town Meeting Day selectboard race in the county, with nine candidates, including three incumbents, vying for three selectboard seats. 

Board Chairman Roger Waterman drew four opponents for a two-year term: retired nurse Elizabeth Armstrong, pig farmer and kiln-dried firewood marketer Ethan Gevry, Agency of Transportation worker Geoffrey Grant, and Michael Hollis, an artist and former employee of Apple and Gap Inc.

Incumbent Jeffrey Kauffman has one challenger for three more years: Eliza Spencer, a consultant for a firm that handles federal contracts who is now also helping upgrade the town’s website. 

Incumbent Peter Briggs is on the ballot for one year, and he is being challenged by self-employed woodworker and music/audio producer Levi Barrett.

One notable office went begging for candidates: Longtime Addison Northwest School District board member Laurie Childers told town officials she made the difficult decision not to file paperwork this time around, and no one filed papers for her seat. It remains to be seen if anyone generates the minimum number of write-in votes to earn a spot on the board, or whether a selectboard appointment will be necessary.

ADDISON SELECTBOARD MEMBERS Roger Waterman, left, Rob Hunt and Steve Torrey gather up their town reports and tools after the brief Addison town meeting held in the Town Hall in 2021. The selectmen nearly outnumbered the citizens who showed up during a raging snowstorm.
Independent file photo/Steve James

Addison will hold an informational meeting in the former Addison Central School gym starting at 7 p.m. on Monday to go over town business, but residents will make all decisions on finances and elections by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 5. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town clerk’s office on Tuesday, March 5. 

Issues that could be discussed at the Monday meeting include the recent closing of the sale of the school building to the town and the building’s future, and progress both on a new town website and on the effort to rehabilitate the former town hall on Route 22A into a town clerk’s office and community gathering center.

Selectboard members could also discuss their spending plans on which residents will cast votes on Tuesday. 

They are proposing a general fund budget of $732,100, up by more than $80,000 from current fiscal year spending, a 12% hike.

The board’s proposed highway budget is $938,911, which if approved would be an increase of almost $28,000 over the current fiscal year’s spending level. 

Residents on Tuesday will also decide on requests from 22 nonprofits; most notable among those asks are $10,000 from the Town Line First Response Squad and $30,162 from the Bixby Library. 

Addison will join the other four ANWSD communities on Tuesday in voting on a proposed school district spending plan of $28,232,078 for the upcoming school year. It would represent an increase in spending of about 11.6% if approved. 

School district officials said their budget would preserve all existing programs as well as retain many positions previously paid for by pandemic-era funding. 

Despite the double-digit spending increase, ANWSD estimates call for the district-wide homestead rate to increase by just 3.25%, or about 5 cents, to $1.5910 per $100 of assessed property value.

But because of rising property values and the resulting major impact of towns’ low Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) on school tax rates, they are still expected to rise more dramatically. Addison’s homestead rate might increase by roughly 35 cents.

The ANWSD board is also seeking voter approval to place $1,172,107.61 from an FY23 surplus into the district’s Capital Improvement Fund to address upcoming district infrastructure needs.

BRANDON

On the ballot this year will be three seats on the selectboard: one three-year term (to replace Tracy Wyman, who is not running for re-election) and two one-year terms. Running for the three-year seat are Doug Bailey and David Snow.  

Incumbent Cecil Reniche-Smith will not seek re-election, but selectboard member Heather Nelson (who was appointed to replace Seth Hopkins) will be on the ballot for a one-year term, along with David Atherton, Ralph Ethier, Ray Marcoux and Aida Nielsen.

Voters will consider proposed fiscal year 2025 municipal spending of $3,796,180, which represents a 13.4% hike over the current year’s spending. If approved, $3,271,510 would be raised from property taxes to cover town spending. Separately, residents will be asked to advise the selectboard on whether to hire an additional police officer to increase on-duty police coverage to 24 hours a day; right now some coverage is done through overtime and on-call officers.

The other big financial request seeks approval to float a $500,000 bond for the town to invest in construction of a 120 kW net-metered solar array on land off Robert Wood Drive. The actual cost of the array would be reduced by state and federal grants.

Brandon voters will consider budgeted appropriations for 14 organizations, the largest of which are $82,580 for the Brandon Area Rescue Squad, $92,000 for the Brandon Free Public Library and $15,000 for the Brandon Senior Center.

The big-ticket on the Brandon ballot this year will be the Otter Valley Unified Union (OVUU) school district budget, which proposes 2024-2025 spending $27,247,823. That budget represents a 12.71% increase over the current year’s spending, but on an equalized pupil basis, it is a 9.74% increase.

TOWN MEETING DAY is Tuesday, March 5. It’s a great opportunity to participate directly in your town’s decision-making process, see friends and neighbors, enjoy snacks, and catch up on your knitting. Whether your town meets on this day, or meets earlier and just holds voting, exercise your privilege and take part.
Independent file photo/Steve James

Calculations in January showed that this level of spending would drive up education property taxes in the six town district between 17% and 28% for those who paid based on their income (two-thirds of Vermonters pay less for their school taxes because of state support).

Brandon residents may cast ballots on the board representing the OVUU, but this year there will be not many names to choose from. There are no contested races, and only two board members are seeking re-election: Natalie Steen of Brandon and Fernanda Canales of Goshen. But several board members are not running, and a couple are stepping down mid-term. On the ballot with no candidates are a Brandon seat with one year remailing on a three-year term, a Leicester seat with two years remaining on a three-year term, and three-year terms for seats in Whiting, Pittsford and At-Large.

It’s too late to get your name on the ballot, but anyone who wishes to fill one of these school board seats may run a write-in campaign.

Brandon will gather for the annual town meeting on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall. The only items on the agenda are to hear the selectboard’s explanation of the town budget and the solar array proposal, plus to vote on proposals to exempt the rescue squad and masons from property taxes. Voting by Australian Ballot will take place the next day, March 5, at the Brandon American Legion Post 55, 550 Franklin St., between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

BRIDPORT

Bridport residents on Town Meeting Day will, among other things, be asked to OK the purchase of a new tandem dump truck and decide whether the community should remain part of the Lemon Fair Insect Control District (LFICD).

The LFICD was established in 2006 for the purpose of mosquito abatement in Bridport, Cornwall and Weybridge. The district’s strategy includes introducing larvicides in areas where major mosquito hatches appear imminent. The LFICD is supported by grants from the state and contributions from the three towns.

If a majority of the Bridport voters on March 5 agree with the idea of withdrawing from the district, the selectboard will then set an Australian ballot vote to affirm (or reject) that choice.

The town’s exit would be effective one year after the vote, with the town still responsible for its LFICD dues during that transitional year.

The proposed new tandem dump truck would cost $275,000, to be financed over five years.

Residents will field a combined town/highway budget of $1,872,217 for fiscal year 2025. Of that, $1,428,354 would need to be raised through property taxes, an amount that’s $52,080 more than this year.

Other articles on the Bridport’s town meeting warning seek:

• $25,000, from the town’s accumulated Public Works Department fund balance, to help pay the cost of a heat recovery system for Bridport’s highway garage.

• $25,000 for the Bridport Fire Department.

• A total of $49,463 in social service funding requests from nonprofits providing services to Bridport residents. It should be noted that $15,925 of that sum is associated with a per-capita funding request through Middlebury Regional EMS.

There are no contested elections on this year’s Town Meeting Day ballot. Incumbents David Bronson and Robert Sunderland are running for additional terms of three and two years, respectively. Tim Howlett is seeking another year as town moderator.

GWEN NAGY-BENSON TALKS at the Weybridge town meeting a few years back. Independent file photo

The Bridport town meeting begins at 10:30 a.m., on Tuesday, March 5, in the Community Hall at 52 Crown Point Road. Voting that day is 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Bridport residents will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Bridport residents will field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

BRISTOL

Bristol voters on Town Meeting Day will weigh in on a two-way contest for an open seat on the town’s selectboard. Incumbent Darla Senecal will not seek another two-year term on the board, and residents Chanin Hill and Jessica Teets are running to fill the seat. Longtime Selectman Joel Bouvier is also running for another three-year term. 

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

Four of Bristol’s seats on the Mount Abraham Unified School District board will appear on the March 5 ballot. MAUSD Vice Chair Erin Jipner is running unopposed for a three-year term, and school board representative Mike Dash is running for the remaining two years of a seat he was appointed to fill in April.

No candidates have stepped forward to run for the one year remaining on a two-year seat formerly held by Jipner, or Bristol’s other open three-year seat. Bristol residents can still fill both of those seats through write-in campaigns. Otherwise, the MAUSD board, in consultation with the town’s selectboard, will appoint Bristol residents to temporarily fill the open spots after Town Meeting Day.

Bristol voters will be asked to approve three major town appropriations for the 2024-2025 fiscal year: 

• $1,149,168 in General Fund spending, an increase of $35,283, or 3.2%, with $962,968 to be raised in taxes. 

• $912,544 in Public Works spending, an increase of $17,886, or 2%, with $785,586 to be raised by taxes. 

• $415,076 in Arts, Parks and Recreation spending, an increase of $65,807, or 18.8%, with $302,486 to be raised in taxes. 

FOLKS VOTE AT Shoreham Town Meeting in 2023.
Independent photo/John S. McCright

Residents will also be asked to approve a total of $158,223 for 31 voted appropriations to organizations in Bristol and throughout the county, spanning Articles 13 to 20. Article 21 asks voters to allow for the use of Australian ballot to vote on civic/social services appropriations beginning next year.  

Bristol’s Town Meeting Day warning also features a request for voters to authorize the purchase of 4.7 acres at the corner of Hewitt Road and Route 116 for the purpose of constructing a new Public Works Department facility. According to the warning, a down payment of $17,000 (or 10% of the $170,000 purchase price) would be paid at closing from the town’s Capital Building and Maintenance Reserve Fund. The remaining $153,000 principal balance would be paid over a 10-year period at a 6% simple interest rate, with annual payments of around $24,000. 

Residents who live in the Bristol Police District (primarily the village) will consider a proposed spending plan of $626,628, an increase of $27,280, or 4.6%, with $479,461 to be raised by taxes. 

Bristol voters on Town Meeting Day will also be asked to OK a $37,014,566 MAUSD spending plan for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposed plan reflects an increase of $3,145,666, or 9.29%, in total spending. 

Lawmakers were still deliberating on proposed changes to the state’s education funding system as MAUSD officials prepared to field the spending proposal to district voters on Town Meeting Day. As a result, the education tax rate for Bristol residents remained subject to change as the Independent went to press. 

The most updated figures from MAUSD officials estimated that the district-wide tax rate would increase by 4.65 cents, or 3.1%, from $1.4991 to $1.5456. Low Common Level of Appraisals were expected to further drive up the tax rate for MAUSD residents who pay education taxes based on the value of their home in three of the district’s member towns. Bristol’s school tax rate, after the CLA is applied, was expected to rise around 29.36 cents. 

District voters will also weigh in on whether the district should purchase the BristolWorks building that houses MAUSD’s central office for $1,230,000. According to the district’s Town Meeting Day warning, the purchase would include the around 10,324-square-foot building, located at 72 Munsill Ave. in Bristol, and common elements, including the parking lot and related improvements. 

The MAUSD annual meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Bristol will hold its annual meeting at Holley Hall on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. Voting by Australian ballot to elect town and school officers and approve the police and school district budgets will take place the following day, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Holley Hall.

CORNWALL

Cornwall voters should make relatively light work of their 2024 town meeting business agenda.

The warning features no contested elections. Those running unopposed include Cy Tall for a one-year term as town moderator; John Roberts, three years, selectboard; Shawn Fetterolf, two years, selectboard; and Susan Johnson, three years, library trustee. Write-in campaigns or appointments will be needed to fill two library trustee spots that are currently unspoken for.

While the town clerk/treasurer’s positions won’t be on this year’s ballot, Cornwall will see new folks taking those positions — which are now appointed — on March 5. Longtime incumbent Town Clerk/Treasurer Sue Johnson is retiring. She will give way to new Town Clerk Laura Fetterolf and new Treasurer Nicholas Gill.

Residents will be asked to support a fiscal year 2024-’25 municipal budget of $510,838, which is down from the $535,400 that was approved for the current year. The highway budget request comes in at $551,800, up from the $535,150 approved last year.

Other articles on Cornwall’s town meeting warning seek:

• $73,600 to support the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD).

• Permission to exempt, from local property taxes, the CVFD’s properties at 1952 Route 30 and 63 North Bingham St.

• $4,000 to support the Cornwall Free Library.

• A combined total of $41,670 in requests from nonprofit entities that provide services to Cornwall residents.

A CITIZEN MAKES a comment at a town meeting in Addison County.

Cornwall residents will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Cornwall residents will also field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

Cornwall’s annual meeting will be held at the Bingham Memorial School on Saturday, March 2, at 10 a.m. Australian ballot voting will be held Tuesday, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Cornwall Town Hall.

FERRISBURGH

At their annual town meeting, Ferrisburgh residents are looking at a contested race for a selectboard seat and a decision on increased town spending. 

Municipal spending issues will be decided from the floor of town meeting at the town hall on Route 7, a gathering that begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 2. Residents will cast ballots on the selectboard and uncontested races, as well as Addison Northwest School District spending, at the town hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5. 

The selectboard race came about after board member Red Muir chose not to run again after several terms. Two candidates filed for his seat: Stephen Fleming, a longtime former member and past president of the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad and a retired Simmonds/Collins Aerospace employee, and Susan Oliveira, a longtime guidance counselor at Vergennes Union High School and supporter of the school’s extracurricular programs.

The town’s total proposed spending, including nonprofit requests that are routinely approved, is $2,658,079.

That compares to this past March’s total approved spending of $2,454,992, thus meaning a proposed increase of about 8.3%, or $203,087. According to Town Clerk Pam Cousino, that would translate to about 3.6 cents more on the municipal side of Ferrisburgh’s property tax rate.

The main drivers of the higher spending directly proposed by the selectboard can be found in the town’s highway department. Proposed paving costs rose by $94,000 because the town is falling behind its road resurfacing schedule and resurfacing costs have also risen. 

Although that increase was partially offset by projected lower fuel, truck and equipment maintenance expenses, the overall budget also includes $22,000 in higher department wages. 

Other increases include $13,000 more for the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, based on a $5 higher per capita assessment; $34,000 for the Ferrisburgh Volunteer Fire Department, as requested by that agency; $25,000 in higher employee benefits, most of which is $17,000 in rising health insurance costs; and $27,000 for a much-needed town-wide property reappraisal. 

FOLKS SAY THE Pledge of Allegiance at the Shoreham Town Meeting in 2023.
Independent photo/John S. McCright

Residents will also be asked to approve spending up to $225,000 to buy a new “tandem dump truck and related snow removal equipment” for the highway department. But Cousino said even if the town were to bond to buy the truck that payments were unlikely to be made during the coming fiscal year. 

Although a number of line items are proposed to rise from current levels, one remained the same —$104,676 for the town’s fire protection contract with Vergennes. 

But the cost to Ferrisburgh for city fire protection actually increased to $119,000 after Ferrisburgh and city officials sat down with a mediator and reached a new three-year deal that reflected higher costs for the city fire department, which serves as the first responder to all of West Ferrisburgh and the portion of Ferrisburgh south of Tuppers Crossing, just north of the city line. 

Cousino said the town has a surplus that has accumulated from the three previous fiscal years that can be tapped to make up the roughly $14,400 difference. 

Ferrisburgh will also join the other four Addison Northwest School District communities on Tuesday in voting on a proposed school district spending plan of $28,232,078 for the upcoming school year. That budget represents an increase in spending of about 11.6%. 

School district officials said their budget would preserve all existing programs as well as retain many positions previously paid for by pandemic-era funding. 

Despite the double-digit spending increase, ANWSD estimates call for the district-wide homestead rate to increase by only 3.25%, or  about 5 cents, to $1.5910 per $100 of assessed property value. 

But because of rising property values and the resulting major impact of towns’ low Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) on school tax rates, they would still expected to rise more dramatically. Ferrisburgh’s homestead rate might increase by roughly 44 cents. 

The ANWSD board is also seeking voter approval to place $1,172,107.61 from an FY23 surplus into the district’s Capital Improvement Fund to address upcoming district infrastructure needs.

GOSHEN

Residents who only take a cursory look at Goshen’s town meeting warning will likely be shocked to see that the selectboard proposes spending $747,150 on roads this year, which is a 323% increase over the amount approved for roads last year.

A closer look at the town report shows that a vast majority of the budget money for roads is earmarked for a $552,000 paving project on Town Hill Road. A budgeted $352,000 would come from town money market and investment funds that have been building up for this day. The other $200,000 would come from a state grant.

In their report, selectboard members note that the proposed amount raised by taxes — $155,150 — represents an increase of $11,850, or about 8.3%

Goshen residents will be asked to approve municipal spending of $269,761, which is an increase of $21,598, or 8.7%, over last year.

Goshen’s in-person town meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Monday evening at the Goshen Town Hall, 50 Carlisle Hill Road.

After the above-mentioned articles are voted on, town meeting will recess and then Australian ballot voting takes place the next day, Tuesday, March 5, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. at the same locale.

Residents will entertain the following:

The selectboard asks townspeople if they want to make major changes to some town offices. First, should the elected position of town treasurer become one that is appointed by the selectboard and could hired from out of town. The thinking is that Goshen is a small town and at some point it will have to look out of town for expertise. By the way, Treasurer Vickee Whiting has retired.

JEN SWEENEY CHECKS a fact in the town report at the Goshen town meeting at the town hall in 2022.
Independent photo/Steve James

A second major change is to do away with the two town constables and depend on state police and the county sheriff. The reasoning here is that there is a town expense in training and insuring constables, and their official authority is limited. An animal control officer would be appointed to take care of dogs in town.

A third change would move from elected local auditors to hiring an outside professional auditor, as many Vermont towns have done.

Plus, Goshen folks will elect a member of the selectboard to a three-year term (incumbent Bill Mathis’s term is up), and elect a town clerk for one year (Martin Fjeld, who was appointed to the position this past summer, is willing to continue).

Goshen residents on Tuesday will vote on the Otter Valley Unified Union (OVUU) school district budget, which proposes 2024-2025 spending $27,247,823. That budget represents a 12.71% increase over the current year’s spending, but on an equalized pupil basis, it is a 9.74% increase.

Calculations in January showed that this level of spending would drive up education property taxes in the six town district between 17% and 28% for those who paid based on their income (two-thirds of Vermonters pay less for their school taxes because of state support).

Goshen residents may cast ballots on the board representing the OVUU, but this year there will be not many names to choose from. There are no contested races, and only two board members are seeking re-election: Fernanda Canales of Goshen and Natalie Steen of Brandon. But several board members are not running, and a couple are stepping down mid-term. On the ballot with no candidates are a Brandon seat with one year remailing on a three-year term, a Leicester seat with two years remaining on a three-year term, and three-year terms for seats in Whiting, Pittsford and At-Large.

It’s too late to get your name on the ballot, but anyone who wishes to fill one of these school board seats may run a write-in campaign.

GRANVILLE

Residents of Granville vote for town officers from the floor of town meeting, and this year on March 5 they will elect a new selectboard member. Selectboard member Rachel Grigorian’s term is up, and she is not running again, Town Clerk Cheryl Sargeant said she doesn’t know if Selectmen Bruce Hyde and Kenneth Beattie have recruited anyone to stand for the position at the meeting. Show up and throw your hat in the ring if you’re interested.

The White River Valley town will also get a new auditor. First Auditor Robin Hagerman’s term expires and she will not run again.

Constable Mark Belisle, who gets a salary of $5,060, may have to explain at town meeting whey voters should OK another year at that pay level, Sargeant said. As he says in his constables report, Belisle was not on the job for some time last year because of an injury. He could field questions about what value he is giving the town for another $5,060; “People are not happy,” Sargeant said.

Also up for discussion and a vote will be a proposed town spending plan of $405,886 for the coming fiscal year, which is 7.9% higher than the current year. The selectboard budged $218,778 for municipal spending (up 6.7%) and $187,108 for highway spending (up 9.4%). In explaining the increases, Sargeant said much of the jump is because Granville hires a lot of contracted services and the fees being charged have simply gone up. For example, the new contractor for plowing and sanding raised prices by $18,000 from the current year (a 36% increase). On the municipal side, the cemetery mowing contract rose $1,360, and the White River Valley Ambulance contract went up $1,086 because of inflation and pay increases.

Sargeant also pointed out that Granville now has to buy its gravel from over the mountain since the supplier in town has not got a permit anymore. 

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.

Granville town meeting will take place next Tuesday, March 5, at 6 p.m. in the Granville Town Hall.

HANCOCK

When residents of Hancock gather for town meeting on Tuesday, March 5, at 10 a.m. in the town hall on Route 125 they will elect someone to a seat on the selectboard and weigh in on some very large expenditure relating to the unprecedented floods last August.

Hancock residents will be voting for a number of elected officials. The most prominent is a three-year term on the selectboard; incumbent Dan Perera’s term expires.

The biggest of the big-ticket items on the warning asks voters to authorize the selectboard to borrow $1.21 million to repair Texas Falls Road Bridge No. 1. This sounds like a lot of money, particularly given that the budget for the entire town has run around $400,000 in recent years. Selectboard members explain in the town report that this money would be 100% reimbursed by the U.S. government under the Federal Lands Access Program, or FLAP, which requires towns to complete infrastructure work before federal funds are disbursed.

The old bridge has a weight limit that precludes fuel, dump and logging trucks from legally crossing it.

Residents will be asked to approve a town spending plan of $483,915. This is a 26% increase over budgeted spending of $383,950 for the current year. The expense that sticks out in the fiscal year 2025 budget is long-term debt payments — specifically, $102,000 for three projects: the Texas Falls bridge, Shampeny culvert and emergency repairs from damage caused by the Aug. 3, 2023, floods. So, some of that $102,000 would likely come back to the town in the form of the FLAP reimbursement and state or FEMA road grants.

One item on the budget that was zeroed out was Hancock’s $15,000 appropriation for hiring the Addison County Sheriff’s Department to do traffic enforcement in town. Selectmen said the line item has paid for itself in recent years through collection of speeding ticket revenue, which is split with the sheriff’s department, but this year there have not been enough tickets issued to cover the cost of enforcement. In addition, selectman said, there is still too much speeding through the village.

Residents will also vote on $8,509 in appropriations to 10 organizations, the largest of which is $2,716 to the Quinn-Town Senior Center and the smallest $50 to Green Up Vermont.

Finally, Hancock will vote on the so-called “Declaration of Inclusion” to promote fair and equal treatment of everyone. The effort of a nonprofit, the declaration says the town officially “condemns racism and welcomes all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, disability, or socioeconomic status, and wants everyone to feel safe and welcome in our community.” 

LEICESTER

Those Leicester residents who come to town meeting on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Leicester Meeting House, may not have much to talk about. Selectboard members will discuss the budget they have fashioned, but the difference from last year isn’t that great.

Residents will vote on town and school budgets by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 5, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., at the Leicester Town Office. 

At the polls they will also vote on a handful of elected positions. Two selectboard spots will be on the ballot: a two-year spot held by Diane Randall and a three-year spot held by Brad Lawes.

When it comes to the municipal budget, residents will be asked to OK a 2024 spending of $809,686, which is an increase of less than $10,000 from the figure OK’d last year, or a hike of around 1%. The town is asking to raise $617,965.96 in property taxes to pay the bill. That represents an increase of $23,720.66, or about 4% from what was collected in 2023.

Specifics on the town budget are proposed at $341,495.72, with the amount raised by taxes pegged at $ 256,057.68. This would be a 3% increase in town spending. Proposed spending on roads is $468,190, with the amount to be raised by taxes $361,908.28. That’s just $600 more than was spent on highways last year.

The big-ticket item on the Leicester ballot this year will be a Fiscal Year 2025 Otter Valley Unified Union (OVUU) school district budget of $27,247,823. That budget represents a 12.71% increase over the current year’s spending, but on an equalized pupil basis, it is a 9.74% increase.

JEFF SCHUMANN SHARES a chuckle at Salisbury’s town meeting on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Independent photo/Steve James

Calculations in January showed this level of spending would drive up education property taxes in the six town district between 17% and 28% for those who pay based on their income (70% of Vermonters pay less for their school taxes because of state support).

Leicester residents may cast ballots on the board representing the OVUU, but this year there will be few names to choose from. There are no contested races, and only two board members are seeking re-election: Natalie Steen of Brandon and Fernanda Canales of Goshen. Several board members aren’t running, and a couple are stepping down mid-term, including Leicester rep. Jeremy Gildrien and at-large rep. Greg Bernhardt of Leicester. On the ballot with no candidates are a Brandon seat with one year remaining on a three-year term, a Leicester seat with two years remaining on a three-year term, and three-year terms for seats in Whiting, Pittsford and at-large.

It’s too late to get your name on the ballot, but anyone who wishes one of these school board seats ca run a write-in campaign. 

LINCOLN

Town Meeting Day voting in Lincoln will include two contested races for openings on the town’s selectboard and a request for voters to approve the creation of a full-time town administrator position. 

Lincoln will hold its annual meeting on Monday, March 4, at 6 p.m. at Burnham Hall. The Lincoln School District will also hold its annual meeting that evening during a recess of the town gathering. 

Voting by Australian Ballot to elect town and school officers will take place in the same location the following day, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

The March 5 ballot features three open seats on the Lincoln selectboard. Incumbents Bay Jackson and Bill Finger will not seek re-election, and four Lincoln residents are running to fill the seats. 

Ken Stockman, Bern Terry and Joe Martell are seeking the three-year seat being vacated by Finger. Amanda Allen is running unopposed to fill Jackson’s two-year seat.

The remaining year of a three-year term vacated by former Selectman Alan Schmidt in August will also appear on the ballot. Brett Bassett and Victor Atkins II are running to finish out the term. 

MARK MULQUEEN STANDS to ask a question during the Lincoln annual town meeting held at Burnham Hall in 2023.
Independent photo/Marin Howell

Lincoln voters on Town Meeting Day will also elect two new faces to the Lincoln School Board, as incumbents Abby Reynolds and Lea Calderone-Guthe will not seek new terms on the board.

Deirdre Kelly is running unopposed for Reynolds’s seat for a three-year term. Peg Sutlive is the lone candidate running for Calderone-Guthe’s two-year seat.

Lincoln School Board Chair Jeanne Albert is also running for the remaining year of a three-year term she was appointed to fill in December.

Lincoln voters are asked to approve $484,797 in general fund spending, an increase of $34,065, or 7.6%. Though, if approved, the amount of taxes to be raised for general fund spending — $241,448 — is $35,111 less than what was approved last March. 

Proposed highway spending would decrease by $49,924, or 4.4%, to $1,087,680, with $855,663 to be raised in taxes.

Article 7 on the town meeting warning asks voters to establish a full-time town administrator position in Lincoln and appropriate a sum of up to $130,000 to support the position. 

Other articles on the Town Meeting Day warning ask voters to approve 29 voted appropriations to local organizations totaling $143,098, including $44,000 for the Lincoln Library and $56,000 for the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Company. 

Voters will also be asked to authorize a sum of $10,000 for contracted law enforcement services. Article 8 asks Lincoln voters whether the town should vote on public questions involving law enforcement by Australian ballot beginning with the 2025 annual meeting. 

During the Lincoln School District’s annual meeting, voters will be asked to OK a $4,927,940 spending plan for the 2024-2025 school year, an increase of 6.09% in total spending over the current year. 

According to the Lincoln School District’s annual report, the proposed budget includes a new administrative support staff position and an additional first- and second-grade classroom teacher. 

Lawmakers were still deliberating on proposed changes to the state’s education funding system as Lincoln School District officials prepared to field the spending proposal to district voters on Town Meeting Day. As a result, the education tax rate for Lincoln residents remained subject to change as the Independent went to press. 

The most updated figures from district officials estimated that Lincoln’s homestead tax rate for fiscal year 2025 would decrease by 13 cents, or 7.89%, from $1.64 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.508, due to the tax provisions included in Vermont’s new school funding law and the anticipated completion of a town-wide reappraisal, which would likely raise the town’s Common Level of Appraisal. 

Lincoln voters this Town Meeting Day will not vote on the Patricia A. Hannaford Regional Technical School District budget as they have in previous years. According to the technical school district’s Town Meeting Day ballot, Lincoln is no longer a member town in the voting district. As the Independent went to press, it remained unclear when the town officially left the technical school district and what caused the change in membership. 

MIDDLEBURY

Middlebury’s town meeting to-do list will include deciding a three-person race for two spots on the local selectboard, and fielding two separate bond issues that would finance major repairs to South Street and Bakery Lane.

The selectboard race involves incumbent Selectman Farhad Khan, former longtime Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington and former Selectman Travis Forbes. The three are vying for two available three-year terms on the board. The Independent recently published their responses to an election Q&A (see tinyurl.com/4xdfhsec).

All other elections on the Middlebury ballot are uncontested.

The two bond requests are for:

• Up to $1.5 million to continue major upgrades to South Street, including installing new sewer mains, sewer service lines, sewer manholes, stormwater mains, stormwater catch basin structures, yard drains, new concrete curb, stormwater treatment systems (as possible), traffic calming bump-outs and final paving.

• Up to $1.2 million for the complete reconstruction of Bakery Lane, including reconstruction of the roadway to accommodate vehicular and pedestrian traffic while also addressing ongoing drainage issues, and the replacement of the existing water main, gravity sewer system, and pressure force main.

Middlebury voters at their annual meeting will consider an FY’25 municipal budget of $13.6 million (a 5.5% increase compared to this year) that will require an $8,753,310 infusion of property taxes. If approved as is, the budget would require a 2.99-cent increase in Middlebury’s current municipal tax rate of 86.48 cents per $100 in property value.

MIDDLEBURY TOWN MODERATOR Susan Shashok was pleased to take the MUHS auditorium stage in 2023, for the community’s first in-person annual town meeting in three years. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced Shashok’s opportunities to lead major meetings since her election in 2019.
Independent photo/John Flowers

The board was able to soften the proposed FY’25 municipal tax rate hike by applying $133,450 from Middlebury’s local option tax surplus fund. The board can’t do that unilaterally, though; residents will be asked to affirm that action by approving Article 3 on their town meeting warning.

The $133,450 transfer is being specifically earmarked for the FY’25 debt service on work recently done to a former wastewater treatment plant building that’s been repurposed for police department and other municipal uses. That debt service would have fallen on local taxpayers, absent the transfer.

Article 4 on the warning asks residents if they’d like to see their FY’25 property taxes due in two equal installments, on Nov. 15, 2024, and March 14, 2025.

Middlebury folks will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Middlebury voters will field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

Middlebury’s annual meeting will be held in the Middlebury Union High School auditorium at 73 Charles Ave. on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the town’s recreation facility at 154 Creek Road.

MONKTON

Monkton voters are set to gather for the town’s annual meeting on Saturday, March 2, at 10 a.m. at Monkton Central School. Voting by Australian Ballot to elect town and school officers and approve town and school district budgets will take place on Tuesday, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Monkton Town Offices. 

The March 5 ballot includes several uncontested races for spots on the Monkton selectboard and Mount Abraham Unified School District board. Selectboard Chair Stephen Pilcher is running for another two-year term on the board. Incumbent Selectman Paul Low will not seek reelection, and Joseph Szarejko is running for the open three-year seat.

As for Monkton’s three school board positions on the ballot, MAUSD representatives Justin Pearson (three-year term) and Barbara Crandall (three-year term) are running to keep the seats they were appointed to fill in May.

MAUSD board member Kielee Pelland is also running for the remaining two years on a three-year seat she was appointed to fill in December.

Monkton voters will be asked to approve $901,418.82 in general fund expenditures, an increase of $122,972.32, or 15.8%, with $630,258.82 to be raised by taxes. 

Other spending requests on the Monkton Town Meeting warning include: 

• $811,106.50 in highway fund expenditures, a decrease of $62,028.70, or 7.1%, with $611,062.50 to be raised in taxes. 

• $30,197 in total appropriations for to 29 local organizations, up $2,448 from the current year.  

Monkton voters on Town Meeting Day will also be asked to OK a $37,014,566 MAUSD spending plan for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposed plan reflects an increase of $3,145,666, or 9.29%, in total spending. 

CAREFUL LISTENING AT a Ripton town meeting.

Lawmakers were still deliberating on proposed changes to the state’s education funding system as MAUSD officials prepared to send the spending proposal to district voters on Town Meeting Day. As a result, the education tax rate for Monkton residents remained subject to change as the Independent went to press. 

The most updated figures from MAUSD officials estimated that the district-wide tax rate would increase by 4.65 cents, or 3.1%, to $1.5456 per $100 of assessed property value. Low Common Level of Appraisals were expected to further drive up the tax rate for MAUSD residents who pay education taxes based on the value of their home. Monkton’s school tax rate, after the CLA is applied, was expected to rise around 28.97 cents. 

District voters will also weigh in on whether the district should purchase the BristolWorks building that houses MAUSD’s central office for $1,230,000. According to the district’s Town Meeting Day warning, the purchase would include the around 10,324-square-foot building, located at 72 Munsill Ave. in Bristol, plus the parking lot and related improvements. 

The MAUSD annual meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27.

NEW HAVEN

New Haven will hold its 262nd annual meeting at its town hall on Monday, March 4, at 6:30 p.m. Voting by Australian ballot to elect municipal and school officers and approve town and school district budgets will take place in the same location on the following day, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

There are no contested races on New Haven’s Town Meeting Day ballot this year. Selectboard incumbents John R. Roleau (two-year term) and Bruce Many (three-year term) are running unopposed to keep their seats.

New Haven voters will elect a new face to sit on the board of the Mount Abraham Unified School District. Board representative Sarah LaPerle will not seek another term, and Ashley Bessette is running unopposed for the three-year seat. Kathi J. Apgar is also running to finish out the two-year term she was appointed to fill this past April. 

When considering the proposed spending included on New Haven’s March 5 ballot, it’s worth noting the town budgets on a January-December calendar year, while the MAUSD budgets use a July-June fiscal year. Thus, school-related charges and payments show up in different New Haven fiscal years.

New Haven Treasurer Danielle Hubbell has previously explained that voters will see a large surplus in the general fund, a large portion of which is made up of school taxes that are collected in one year and paid in the next. As a result, Article 6 of the New Haven town meeting warning includes both a $600,000 “school payment” due and a $736,395.55 “2023 surplus.”

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

• $814,246 in general fund expenses, an increase of $39,772, or 5.1%

• $600,000 for a school payment, the same amount as the current year. 

• $1,176,162 for road fund spending, down $109,135, or 8.5%, with $909,508 to be raised by taxes. 

• $3,400 in voted appropriations for local organizations, spanning Articles 9 through 11. An additional $26,558.25 in appropriations for 19 other organizations are included in the proposed general fund budget and detailed in the town report. New Haven voters last year agreed to include requests for funding from organizations that had successfully petitioned for five consecutive years in the town budget. 

Additionally, residents will be asked to spend up to $20,000 from the town’s Reserve Facilities Fund to make repairs to the geothermal system in the town offices and library.

New Haven voters on Town Meeting Day will also be asked to OK a $37,014,566 MAUSD spending plan for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposaal reflects an increase of $3,145,666, or 9.29%, in total spending. 

Lawmakers were still deliberating on potential changes to the state’s education funding system as MAUSD officials prepared to presernt the spending proposal to district voters on Town Meeting Day. As a result, the education tax rate for New Haven residents remained subject to change as the Independent went to press. 

The most updated figures from MAUSD officials estimated that the district-wide tax rate would increase by 4.65 cents, or 3.1%, to $1.5456 per $100 of assessed property value. Low Common Level of Appraisals were expected to further drive up the tax rate for MAUSD residents who pay education taxes based on the value of their home in three of the district’s member towns. New Haven’s school tax rate, after the CLA is applied, was expected to rise around 24.23 cents. 

TOWN MEETING IS always full of knitters doing their thing. Here are a couple in New Haven.

District voters will also weigh in on whether the district should purchase the BristolWorks building that houses MAUSD’s central office for $1,230,000. According to the district’s Town Meeting Day warning, the purchase would include the around 10,324-square-foot building, located at 72 Munsill Ave. in Bristol, plus the parking lot and related improvements. 

ORWELL

A prominent name in the town of Orwell will be missing from the Town Meeting Day ballot this year. Thomas Audet, who has been on the selectboard for more than five years and most recently chaired the board, is not seeking re-election. Les Wood is seeking the two-year seat on the selectboard that Audet is vacating. Also on the ballot for a selectboard seat — this one is a three-year term — is incumbent Gary Murdoch, who will face challenger Robert Barnes.

Others on the March 5 ballot should be familiar to Orwell voters: Michael Audet for moderator (one year), Betty Walker for town clerk (one year), Bryan Young for town treasurer (one year), among others. A three-year seat as an auditor is looking for a write-in candidate.

Also up for election is a three-year term on the Slate Valley Unified Union School District, or SVUU, school board. Orwell’s Peter Stone, who is vice chair of that body, is up for re-election.

Orwell residents will decide a number of financial questions. The largest, as usual, is the town budget. The selectboard is asking to spend $1,778,548 in 2024, with $926,263 being raised in taxes, and the rest raised from grants and other non-tax revenues. That represents a spending increase of $413,836, or 30.3% over the current year. The increase in tax ask was not nearly so steep — about 11.8% or a tad less than $98,000.

Voters will also get to weigh in on a proposed $103,441 in sewer spending, which would be paid by users of the system/

Other prominent appropriations on the warning are $18,000 for the Wright Memorial Library Building plus $5,000 to complete paining of the building; $4,500 to buy books for the library; $2,200 for the Orwell Parade Committee; $1,000 for Orwell youth recreation; and $200 for maintenance of St. Paul’s Cemetery.

Orwell voters will also cast ballots on the proposed budget for the Slate Valley Unified Union School District, or SVUU. Proposed spending for the coming year is $31,021,635, which represents an increase of $2,965,235, or about 10.1%, over the amount warned last year. The increase in spending per pupil, however, is less than 1%.

School officials made the point that if the education tax was dependent only on the budget, then property taxes would go down in each of the district’s six towns, but the CLA (Common Level of Appraisal) would drive up taxes. Specifically, the increase would be $209.44 per $100,000 of appraised homesite value in Orwell, according to a Feb. 8 estimate.

SVUU voters will also be asked to transfer a $500,000 surplus to the Capital Improvement and Repairs Fund.

Orwell’s town meeting begins at 10 a.m. at town hall. Australian ballot voting begins at the same time and place, and will continue until 7 p.m.

PANTON

With no major races for office on Panton’s Town Meeting Day ballot, residents will largely be casting their ballots on town and Addison Northwest School District spending.

The Panton selectboard will host an informational meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 4, at Panton Town Hall to discuss town business and answer residents’ questions. 

All balloting on financial questions and on candidates in Panton are done by Australian ballot. Voting hours in Panton on Tuesday, March 5, are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Panton Town Hall. 

Unopposed incumbent selectboard member Teresa Boucher is on the ballot. Incumbent Meddie Perry also faces no opposition for a new term on  the Vergennes-Panton Water District board. The term of Panton’s representative on the ANSWD board does not expire this year. There are openings for which no resident filed for dog warden, moderator and constable.

The Panton selectboard is recommending a general fund budget of $1,129,693 to handle town business and maintain town roads. That figure includes all proposed spending, including reserve funds and $13,401 of town donations to nonprofits, both of which require separate voter approval. 

The board’s proposal calls for an increase of about $288,000, or 25%, from the $841,341 approved a year ago. 

Major drivers of the higher spending include:

• $90,000 for new dump truck, representing the first payments on a purchase approved by voters in 2023.

• $60,000 for a new pickup truck.

• About $48,000 for higher wages and benefits for highway crew and town office workers, notably health insurance as well as pay.

• An increase of $5,000 in the selectboard’s ask for Panton’s eight reserve funds. The board is asking for $70,500 in total, including $30,000 for highway equipment, $20,000 for highway projects, and $10,000 for truck tires. 

• $10,000 more for the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, which is upping its per capita request to the towns it serves.

• About $12,000 more for first-responder fire protection from the Vergennes Fire Department. 

VOTERS CAST THEIR ballots on Town Meeting Day in Bristol in 2021. Independent photo/John Flowers

Panton will also join the other four ANWSD communities on Tuesday in voting on a proposed school budget of $28,232,078 for the upcoming school year. It would represent an increase in spending of about 11.6% if approved.

School district officials said the spending plan would preserve all existing programs and retain many positions previously paid for by pandemic-era funding. 

Despite the double-digit spending increase, ANWSD estimates call for the district-wide homestead rate to rise by just 3.25%, or  about 5 cents, to $1.5910 per $100 of assessed property value.

Unlike the other four ANWSD communities, Panton expects to have completed a town-wide property reappraisal before tax bills are sent out this summer. Residents thus might not see the 30- to 40-cent increases on their homestead tax rates other ANWSD towns are likely to experience, which are being driven by low Common Levels of Appraisals. Still, higher taxes are almost certain. 

As is typically the case with town-wide reappraisals, particularly when one has not been undertaken in more than a decade, as in Panton, some categories of properties are likely to have risen in value more than others. Thus, increases in taxes for some property owners might be lower or higher than for others. Overall, it is difficult to predict where rates will ultimately land. 

RIPTON

Competition for two spots on the Ripton selectboard will highlight the community’s town meeting business.

In one of those races, Bill Hunsinger and Chris Smith are vying for a one-year term on the board. In the other, Giles Hoyler and Milo Tudor are competing for a three-year term on the panel.

All other elections on the ballot are uncontested.

Residents will be asked to endorse a combined town/highway budget of $770,667 for Fiscal Year 2025, which represents around a $35,000 increase compared to this year’s spending plan of $735,923. The general fund ask this year is for $281,067, and the highway request is $489,600.

Ripton officials, in their entry in this year’s town report, noted the financial impact of last summer’s floods.

“Most of the cost will eventually be covered by FEMA and the state, but those funds come after all is completed, including much paperwork,” selectboard Chair Laurie Cox wrote on behalf of the panel. “We will borrow from the Vermont Bond Bank, which will provide loans at a low-interest rate, or from local banks if necessary.”

Other articles on Ripton’s town meeting agenda ask voters to:

• Appropriate $44,950 for the Ripton Volunteer Fire Department and Ripton First Response.

• Appropriate $6,000 for the Ripton Cemetery Commission.

• Earmark a total of $21,846 for various non-profit social service agencies that serve Ripton residents.

GOSHEN SELECTBOARD CHAIR David McKinnon and colleague Diane O’Classen survey attendees at the tiny community’s town meeting. Goshen was one of a few communities to hold an in-person town meeting in 2022.
Independent photo/Steve James

Ripton residents will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Ripton residents will field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

Ripton’s annual meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 4, at the Ripton Community House at 1283 Route 125. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., also at the community house.

SALISBURY

Salisbury’s 2024 town meeting will be dominated by financial requests.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget asks for $387,725 for general fund costs, and $524,730 for highway expenses. The combined $912,455 is $48,221 more than the $864,234 voters endorsed for the current fiscal year.

Other financial requests on this year’s ballot include $17,868, for the town to receive mosquito eradication services through the Otter Creek Watershed Insect Control District, and a $104,604 to fund a variety of non-profit agencies that serve Salisbury residents. Among the payees: The Lake Dunmore/Fern Lake Assoc. Milfoil Protection Program ($25,000), and the Salisbury Volunteer Fire Department ($59,069).

Residents will be asked if they’d like to apply approximately $30,000 in budget surplus to help offset taxes.

There are no contested elections on this year’s ballot. Christopher Andres and Robbie Devoid are in line for terms of two years and three years, respectively, on the selectboard. Town Clerk Allen Hathaway is seeking another year in office, and John Nuceder is on the ballot for another year as town moderator.

Salisbury’s informational meeting will be held at 2 p.m. this Saturday, March 2. All of the financial and election items will be fielded by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 5, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Salisbury town office.

Local voters will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Salisbury residents will field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

THE SCENE IN Salisbury at the Saturday town meeting in 2023.
Independent photo/Steve James

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

Residents will gather for an informational meeting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, at the Salisbury Community School. All of the financial and election items will be voted by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 5, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Salisbury town office.

SHOREHAM

Shoreham residents at their town meeting next week will be asked, among other things, to purchase a new truck for the local highway department, and to adopt a new policy for entertaining annual social service agency funding requests.

The selectboard is asking for permission to spend up to $272,000 on the new truck (with plows), and the town will apply proceeds from the sale of the current truck (a 2015 Western Star) to help defray the costs of the purchase.

Voters will be asked to limit the future town meeting funding petition requirement to nonprofits requesting money for the first time, or for those that request substantial increases. Repeat requesters pitching the same amounts would be exempt from re-petitioning.

Shoreham leaders are proposing a Fiscal Year 2025 highway budget of $1,043,696, a bump of approximately $63,000, or 6.4%, compared to the current spending plan of $980,430.

The FY’25 general fund request comes in at $443,509, up almost $18,000, or 4.2%, from the current $425,553 spending plan.

There are no contested elections on Shoreham’s 2024 Town Meeting Day ballot.

Molly Francis and Rebecca Kerr are both in line for one-year terms on the selectboard. Loren Wood is unopposed for a three-year term on the panel.

Kathryn Flagg has no competition for a five-year term as library trustee.

No one has stepped up for terms as town moderator, town constable and for three separate seats on the planning commission.

Shoreham residents will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Shoreham residents will field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

Shoreham’s annual gathering will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 4, in the Shoreham Elementary School auditorium. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the Shoreham town office at 297 Main St.

STARKSBORO

Starksboro will hold its annual town meeting on Saturday, March 2, at 9 a.m. at Robinson Elementary School. Voting by Australian Ballot to elect town and school officers and to adopt the school district budget will take place in the same location on Tuesday, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

There are no contested races on Starkboro’s Town Meeting Day ballot this year. Selectboard incumbents Koran Cousino (two-year-term) and John Painter (one-year-term) are running unopposed to keep their seats on the board. No one has filed to run for the three-year seat vacated by Carin McCarthy in August.

MAUSD board member Steve Rooney is also running unopposed for another three-year term.

At the town’s annual meeting, Starksboro voters will be asked to approve: 

• $1,201,874 in general fund spending, an increase of $52,296, or 4.5%, with $917,709 to be raised in taxes. 

• $62,100 for the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund, an increase of $4,605, or 8%. 

• $119,344 for the Road Equipment Reserve Fund, an increase of $6,755, or 6%. 

• $44,192 for the Starksboro Public Library, an increase of $525, or 1.2%. 

• $7,590 for the Bristol Rescue Squad to provide ambulance service to parts of Starksboro. 

PRESTON TURNER SPEAKS at Salisbury Town Meeting in 2023.
Independent photo/Steve James

Articles 9 through 11 ask Starksboro voters to approve a total of $87,230 in voted appropriations to 36 organizations in Starksboro and other parts of the county. 

Voters will also be asked to decrease the town’s planning commission from seven members to five. All terms would be for three years. 

Starksboro voters on Town Meeting Day will also be asked to OK a $37,014,566 MAUSD spending plan for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposed plan reflects an increase of $3,145,666, or 9.29%, in total spending. 

Lawmakers were still deliberating on proposed changes to the state’s education funding system as MAUSD officials prepared to send the spending proposal to district voters on Town Meeting Day. As a result, the education tax rate for Starksboro residents remained subject to change as the Independent went to press. 

The most updated figures from MAUSD officials estimated the district-wide tax rate would increase by 4.65 cents, or 3.1%, to $1.5456 per $100 of property assessment. Low Common Level of Appraisals were expected to further drive up the tax rate for MAUSD residents who pay education taxes based on the value of their home in each of district’s member towns expect Starksboro.

That’s because Starksboro is currently in the process of completing a town-wide reappraisal, which is expected to be finished by July 1 and bring the town’s CLA closer to 100. As a result, Starksboro’s school tax rate, after the new CLA is applied, is expected to decrease by 40.11 cents. 

District voters will also weigh in on whether the district should purchase the BristolWorks building that houses MAUSD’s central office for $1,230,000. According to the district’s Town Meeting Day warning, the purchase would include the around 10,324-square-foot building, located at 72 Munsill Ave. in Bristol, plus the parking lot and related improvements. 

The MAUSD annual meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27.

VERGENNES

With no contested races on the city ballot the major decision Vergennes residents will have to make are on the separate Addison Northwest School District ballot. 

Vergennes residents will cast their votes on Tuesday, March 5, from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Green Street fire station. 

They may also choose to attend the annual city meeting on Monday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the Vergennes Opera House. At the most recent Vergennes City Council meeting, officials were discussing format changes to the city meeting with the goal of encouraging more dialogue between officials and community members about issues facing the city. 

On the ballot, Deputy Mayor Dickie Austin and Councilors Jill Murray-Killon, Mark Koenig and John Montgomery are all running unopposed.

Austin and Murray-Killon are elected incumbents seeking re-election for two more years. Koenig and Montgomery were both appointed to vacancies during 2023 and will seek election, not re-election. Koenig has served previously on the council and is looking to fill out the final year of a two-year term. Montgomery was appointed to a finish out a term that expires in March and is looking for a full two years. 

Also on the ballot, Neil Swenor is running unopposed for a three-year vacancy on the Vergennes-Panton Water District board. 

Residents will be asked to approve an updated 25-year lease for the Vergennes Opera House to share city hall with municipal offices. That lease re-do is in part necessary due to the theater’s planned all-access project, which will also improve handicap access to city offices when completed. 

Twenty nonprofits are seeking financial support from city residents.

Vergennes will join the other four Addison Northwest School District communities on Tuesday in voting on a proposed spending plan of $28,232,078 for the upcoming school year. It would represent an increase in spending of about 11.6% if approved.

School district officials said their budget would preserve all existing programs as well as retain many positions previously paid for by pandemic-era funding. 

Despite the double-digit spending increase, ANWSD estimates call for the district-wide homestead rate to rise by just 3.25%, or  about 5 cents, to $1.5910 per $100 of assessed property value.

But because of rising property values and the resulting major impact of communities’ low Common Levels of Appraisals (CLAs) on school tax rates, they are still expected to rise more dramatically. The city’s homestead rate might rise by roughly 33 cents.

WALTHAM

Waltham residents will gather at their town hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 4, to make all decisions on town business from the floor of town meeting.  

That business includes electing a new selectboard member for a three-year term to replace Andrew Martin, who has said he’ll decline a nomination to stay on the board. Attorney Anthony Duprey, a former member of the Vergennes City Council, has expressed interest in receiving a nomination for the position.

A number of other offices will become or remain open, including lister, auditor and moderator. 

The selectboard is seeking approval for $277,863 in spending for the upcoming 2025 fiscal year, an amount that’s 6%, or about $11,800, higher than spending approved in March 2023.

Of that, $141,013 would support town government operations, an increase of about 15%, or a little more than $18,000, from current spending. Line items driving the proposed budget higher include payroll, the town’s contract with Vergennes for fire protection, and mowing. 

The selectboard is also seeking $107,850 for road maintenance, a decrease of more than $10,000 from FY24.

In a separate road maintenance request, the selectboard is asking residents  to bond for up to $275,000 and 15 years to fund replacement of a culvert on South Middlebrook Road. The board said the estimated cost of the replacement is $441,000, but a Vermont Town Highway Structures Program Grant will cover $200,000 of the bill. The impact of that bond wouldn’t affect this year’s budget, officials said.

CODY MEARS STANDS at Shoreham Town Meeting in 2023.
Independent photo/John S. McCright

Another separate article asks Waltham residents to devote $10,692 in tax revenue to support the Bixby Library. That amount is based on a per capita figure the library board is asking from each of the towns the Bixby serves and is unchanged from its current level.

 Also, 16 nonprofits are seeking a total of $ 4,329 from Waltham residents. 

 Waltham will join the other four Addison Northwest School District communities on Tuesday in voting on a proposed spending plan of $28,232,078 for the upcoming school year. It would represent an increase in spending of about 11.6% if approved. Voting hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, at Waltham Town Hall

School district officials said their budget would preserve all existing programs as well as retain many positions previously paid for by pandemic-era funding. 

Despite the double-digit spending increase, ANWSD estimates call for the district-wide homestead rate to increase by just 3.25%, or  about 5 cents, to $1.5910 per $100 of assessed property value.

But because of rising property values and the resulting major impact of towns’ low Common Levels of Appraisals on school tax rates, they would rise more dramatically. Waltham’s might rise by roughly 29 cents. 

WEYBRIDGE

Weybridge residents at their town meeting will, among other things, consider spending $25,060 for locals to obtain fiscal year 2025 memberships to Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library.

The Independent last November reported details on the proposal, which recognizes that Weybridge currently doesn’t have a functioning public library. Weybridge’s Cotton Free Library is a beloved local structure but hasn’t been used for its intended purpose since the 1980s. The Ilsley Library has the capacity and resources to accommodate Weybridge patrons.

Weybridge voters also will be asked to support a proposed FY’25 highway budget of $583,850, up around $32,000 from the current $551,900 spending plan.

The FY’25 general fund ask is $193,782, up around $16,000 compared to this year’s budget.

Other requests on the 2024 Weybridge town meeting agenda include:

• $30,000 for fire protection.

• $13,000 to sustain the local recycling program.

• A combined $28,425 for various social service organizations that serve Weybridge residents.

There are no contested elections on this year’s Town Meeting Day ballot. Incumbents Kelly Flynn and Stacey Rainey are unopposed for terms of two and three years, respectively, on the Weybridge selectboard. Spence Putnam is seeking another one-year term as town moderator.

Local residents will also participate in uncontested elections for four, three-year seats on the Addison Central School District board. Running unopposed are incumbent Mary Heather Noble and Laura Harthan for two Middlebury seats on the board, and incumbents Ellen Whelan-Wuest and Barbara Wilson for seats representing Cornwall and Shoreham, respectively.

All ACSD candidates are elected at-large in the seven-town district.

Weybridge voters will field a proposed 2024-2025 ACSD preK-12 budget of $50,604,080, which represents a 6.5% increase in total spending compared to this year. As the Independent went to press, the Legislature was still tinkering with the state’s education funding law. As a result, the ACSD’s education property tax rate — and thus the individual homestead education property tax rates for each town — were still fluid at press time. While the Independent was unable to provide definitive education property tax rates for each of the seven district towns, it was clear each community would see a larger-than-usual rate increase, due to universally low Common Level of Appraisal ratios.

CLAs, as determined by town-by-town analyses of their real estate sales by the Department of Taxes, compare towns’ property tax assessments to fair market value. Ratios created with that study are then used to adjust school tax rates upwards or downwards to equalize tax collection among all Vermont municipalities.

You can find more details about the ACSD budget at acsdvt.org/district-link/fy25budget.

Weybridge’s annual gathering will be held Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. at Weybridge Elementary School. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Weybridge town office.

WHITING

The legal voters of Whiting will wrap up Town Meeting Day in Addison County when they gather for their annual town meeting this coming Tuesday, March 5. The assembly at Whiting Town Hall begins at 7:15 p.m. 

Those legal voters will decide whether to accept the selectboard’s proposed municipal spending plan of $487,675, which would be $31,415, or 6.9%, more than the town budget approved at last March’s meeting. The amount that would be collected in property taxes is also going up; the proposed spending would require $315,250 in taxes, which is $24,946, or 8.6%, more than last year.

Whiting residents will also nominate and vote for five town officers. On the top of the list a three-year term on the selectboard that is currently held by Bob Wood. Other offices on the warning are lister (three years, currently Rani Fallon), auditor (three years, currently Pat Mattison), first constable (one year, Rusty Brigham) and collector of delinquent taxes (one year, Rani Fallon).

While town business takes place Tuesday night, Whiting will host Australian ballot voting at town hall that day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., for the presidential primary and to vote on the Otter Valley Unified Union (OVUU) school district budget. The schools are proposing 2024-2025 spending of $27,247,823. That budget represents a 12.71% increase over the current year’s spending, but on an equalized pupil basis, it is a 9.74% increase.

Calculations in January showed that this level of spending would drive up education property taxes in the six town district between 17% and 28% for those who paid based on their income (two-thirds of Vermonters pay less for their school taxes because of state support).

Whiting residents may cast ballots on the board representing the OVUU, but this year there will be not many names to choose from. There are no contested races, and only two board members are seeking re-election: Natalie Steen of Brandon and Fernanda Canales of Goshen. Several board members, including Rebecca Watters of Whiting, are not running, and a couple are stepping down mid-term. On the ballot with no candidates are a Brandon seat with one year remailing on a three-year term, a Leicester seat with two years remaining on a three-year term, and three-year terms for seats in Whiting, Pittsford and At-Large. It’s too late to get your name on the ballot, but anyone who wishes one of these school board seats may mount a write-in campaign.

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