Approvals and rejections
CASTLETON—Castleton voters eliminated the traditional lister’s position in favor of a professional assessor, in a 638-489 vote.
Voters in Castleton approved, 686-478, construction of a new town office during their March 1 balloting; they also approved, 762-396, use of a surplus that had come to more than $56,000 in the construction project. The planned 3,127-square-foot town office building is to be constructed on a 3.3-acre parcel next to the new fire station on Route 30. Construction cost is projected at $803,544, plus about $100,000 estimated for land acquisition. Select Board Chair Joe Bruno described his reaction to the outcome as “happier than a gopher in soft sand.” The next step in the project is setting dates for informational meetings that will keep the voters feeling informed and involved in the project.
Voters also chose Selectman Robert Spaulding over Selectman John Hale for the three-year seat, 690-457. Nancy Mark received voter approval for the five-year-library trustee seat, receiving 656 votes over 465 for Tina Rampone.
Castleton voters turned down an attempt to condense its annual ballot from more than 50 articles to five. It was a fairly adamant vote too, 728 to 415. Also on the ballot in 2015, it failed to about the same degree, 447-260.
Voter turnout challenges ballot supplies
BENSON—Benson voters turned out in unusually large numbers, 297 out of 688 registered voters, and considerably more than in the last presidential primary year, when 240 voters came to the polls. Lack of mechanization proved to be a help rather than a hindrance. Town Clerk Daphne Bartholomew had only to make more on a photocopier.
FAIR HAVEN—Town Clerk Suzanne Dechame said she nearly ran out too. She had ordered 800 ballots; 743 were used. Fair Haven has 1,559 registered voters.
WEST HAVEN—West Haven had an even greater proportional turnout, 103 from a checklist of 169. Normal voter turnout is usually right below 50 percent, 79 or 80 individuals, noted Town Clerk Carol Richards.
Rutland County’s high voter turnout numbers are not typical of the entire state, though. According to the Associated Press, 187,666 Vermont voters took part in this year’s primary election, over 9,000 fewer than 2008.
Two ARSU school budgets turned down
Both Benson and Fair Haven voters rejected their school budgets on March 1, although all union school district budgets passed across the greater area. Benson voters turned down their $1.76 million budget by 133 to 159; Fair Haven rejected its $5.35 million budget by 354 to 378.
Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union Business Manager Linda Jakubowski attributes the loss as probably caused by “sticker shock.” New language on the ballot enumerates increases in spending per equalized pupil and the percentage increase in per-pupil spending. Previous ballots were required to list only total spending and percentage increase above the previous budget.
Proposed per-pupil spending was up 8.5 percent in Benson, 7.9 percent in Fair Haven. Benson voters said no, 159 to 133; Fair Haven, 378 to 135. Depending on what level the legislature sets for the base tax rate, Benson’s taxes would rise 4-6 cents; Fair Haven’s, 1-3 cents.
Both schools have been frugal, Jakubowski noted. Their lower-than-average per pupil spending gave them an exemption from Act 46 spending caps. Benson has combined classes. Both schools lost pupils in the last year.
Fair Haven Grade School Principal Skip Cooke observed that this year’s balloting marked the second time FHGS has rejected a budget in the 32 years that he has headed its administration. He had tried to reassure voters at the February 29 informational meeting that total spending has barely risen at Fair Haven. The new budget was only $38,000 higher than the previous year’s and the budget-to-budget balance was up less than 1 percent.
What drove up the seeming cost was loss of students and of tuition revenue from West Haven. “We would have been golden” without those two factors, Cooke observed.
However, Fair Haven Union High voters passed their $8.1 million budget with a 1,496-1,196 summation. Both Benson and Fair Haven schools send their students to FHUHS.
“Another town heard from”
BENSON—Although Benson voters rejected their school budget, they did approve, 172-121, putting $20,000 in the school’s building reserve fund and the purchase of a new firetruck, to cost no more than $310,000. Funding for the new truck would come from $110,000 in loans, $67,468 in the department’s savings account, $67,315 in equipment reserve balance, and a $39,000 appropriation. According to Fire Chief Thomas Neumann, the new truck would function as the frontline truck for 10 to 15 years. It would carry more water and make firefighters more effective. Its foam system would help fight fires faster and reduce water damage, added Sam Bartholomew, a department fire captain and Select Board member.
FAIR HAVEN—Voters in Fair Haven approved two measures that would improve waterline segments along North Main, Fourth, Mechanic, Maple, Liberty, Pine, and Depot streets, Route 4A and Dutton Avenue. The $2.1 million bond passed 478-241 in the March 1 balloting.
Selectman Dick Frazier received approval for a one-year Board seat, receiving 359 votes. After a year off, Chris Cole is also back on the board, receiving 508 votes. Although not re-elected to the board, Sean Galvin did receive voter approval for the second constable position.
The $1.95 million town budget passed, 419-287; all other town articles also received approval.
Although the Fair Haven Town School District budget of $5.35 million failed, 345-378, other school articles did pass: $6,000 in reserves for roofing repair, school vehicle purchases and boiler replacements or other capital improvements.
TINMOUTH—New to Tinmouth’s Select Board is Frank Sears, defeating Amanda Buffum Gill and incumbent Gregg Casey, with balloting totaling 139, 62, and 61 votes, respectively. Eric Buffum will finish the remaining two years of Hollis Squier’s three-year term as road commissioner; Buffum received 201 votes to Kevin Ruane’s 66. Carmen Fallar won a two-year lister’s position, receiving 162 votes against Carolyn Feury’s 77. Voice votes approved both the $694,470 town budget and the $1.56 million school budget on February 27. Voters also approved the $6 million Castleton Hubbardton Union School District #42 budget, 815-622.
PAWLET—Voters approved all measures. The town budget passed, 419 to 64, as well as a $25,000 allotment to the town equipment fund, 372-110, and $15,000 for maintaining town-owned buildings, 393-88. They also approved the $1.8 million Town School District budget, 330-102.
Voters chose Susan B. Hosley as Pawlet School director, defeating Cori Rail.