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Haff wins close race in Killington

Jim Haff elected to Select Board and budget passes by single digit votes at Killington Town Meeting Day

By Katy Savage and Polly Lynn Mikula

KILLINGTON—Voters approved the budget on Town Meeting Day by just two votes—187 for and 185 against, and elected Select Board Member Jim Haff over Kelly Lange by just five votes. Jay Hickory, who also ran for the seat, came in a distant third. In total 380 ballots were cast.

Haff will join Patty McGrath and Steve Finneron on the Board.

Mistakes in Killington’s town budget and inaccurate accounting drew concern from residents at an informational meeting on Monday night prior to Town Meeting Day, foreshadowing a close vote on the budget and other articles.

There was a mistake in the combined town and school tax rate, there were errors and miscalculations in the expense report and projected Green Mountain National Golf Course revenue of $1.8 million (up from $1.3 million in 2017) was mistakenly left out of the Town Report, officials explained Monday.

The town’s $4.4 million town budget, with $3.17 million to be raised by taxes, resulted in a 4.36 cent increase to the town tax rate.

The Town Report erroneously showed the total tax rate was down about 4 cents, but the estimated town and school tax combined was actually up slightly, town officials pointed out on Monday night. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $2,043 in taxes.

“The book is a disgrace,” said Jim Haff, a former Select Board member who was running for a three-year term.

“We need to know what we’re voting on,” said Haff.

There were about 100 people at the informational meeting, Monday, and many expressed concern that the budget they were being asked to vote on wasn’t accurate.

Hickory urged people to vote the budget down.

Select Board chair Patty McGrath assured them that it was accurate. She tried to address the issues on Monday by providing residents printed handouts with corrected numbers. Some numbers were off by a few hundred dollars, others were off by thousands.

Roads expenses in the previous year’s budget was $497,000, not $492,000, she said. Bonded indebtedness for the 2018 budget was $671,000, not $575,000, she said.

McGrath said part of the problems in the budget stemmed from switching to a new accounting software program—a widely used program called New England Municipal Resource Center (NEMRC).

McGrath said there were errors and miscalculations when comparing previous books. Numbers weren’t carried properly from one book to another, she said. Some numbers were transposed.

She admitted throughout the meeting that the town’s accounting needed improvement.

“The figure checking could be better,” McGrath said.

Debt incurred from Green Mountain National Golf Course was also a concern.

The golf course owes the town about $390,000. Some wondered if the golf course was ever going to repay the town.

Haff said the town should support the golf course’s infrastructure and forgive the debt.

“We’re never going to get it back,” he said.

Select Board member Steve Finneron spoke in favor of the golf course. He said the golf course brings people into town who support other businesses.

In the three-hour meeting, residents were also concerned about Article 7, which asked for the town’s creation of a $75,000 reserve fund to replace the Johnson Recreational Center pool.

The total cost to replace the pool would be more than $1 million, said Recreation Commission chair Betsey Bianchi.

“We need to start someplace,” she said.

A 10-year plan to replace the pool, which is more than 40 years old, was presented in 2015. There were plans to renovate the pool, pool house and recreational facilities. Bianchi said the creation of the fund would insure those improvements get done.

About 80 people use the pool a day when it’s open from June to Labor Day, she said.

Resident Joe Wolak questioned the need for a pool that’s only open three months a year while resident Trevor VanNeil, who is a lifeguard at the pool, called it “a hub of the community.”

Summary of vote:

-Article 1, elected town officers, none of whom were contested except the Select Board.  Jim Haff won that seat defeating Kelly Lange and Jay Hickory (176, 171, 32 respectively.)

-Article 2, passed. It asked voters to pay taxes in three installments, with taxes due Aug. 15, Nov. 15 and Feb. 15. (263 yes, 52 no).

-Article 3, passed. It asked voters to approve a town budget of $4.4 million. (187 yes, 185 no.)

-Article 4, passed. It asked voters to exempt the Killington Volunteer Fire Department’s from taxation for the next five years. (292 yes, 81 no.)

-Article 5, passed. It asked voters to establish a $679,000 reserve fund to pay for Killington’s new public safety building.Voters approved the purchase of a four-acre parcel on Killington Road in September with the cost—up to $634,000—to be paid in installments. The building would house the Killington Volunteer Fire Department, Killington Search & Rescue and the Killington Police Department. The cost to construct the building would be $3-$4 million and construction would begin in 2020. Finneron said voters will be presented with design options later this year. (250 yes, 118 no.)

-Article 6, passed. It asked voters to establish a $5,000 reserve fund for Town Garage improvements. (300 yes, 71 no.)

-Article 7, passed. It asked voters to establish a reserve fund to pay for the replacement of the town pool facilities and appropriate $75,000 for this fund. (278 yes, 94 no.)

Unified school budget passes

The Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District (WCMUUSD), which comprises students pre-K through grade 12 in Bridgewater, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Reading and Woodstock and grade 7-12 in Barnard, passed its first unified budget on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 6.

Voters approved the 2019 fiscal year budget at $17,956,806, which is $2,437,896 less than the sum of each schools current 2018 operating budget. WCMUUSD board members presented the budget at an informational meeting held Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the Woodstock Union Middle School gymnasium.

According to estimated tax rate implications Bridgewater would see an increase of 0.14 percent, Killington a decrease of 3.14 percent, Plymouth a decrease of 7.41 percent, Pomfret an increase of 7.6 percent, Reading an increase of 2.25 percent, Woodstock an increase of 3.46 percent and Barnard (middle and high school only) an increase of 1.85 percent.

Town Meeting Results:

Bridgewater: passed Yes 48, No 34

Reading: passed Yes 80, No 49

Pomfret: passed Yes 72, No 30, Blank 2

Killington – passed Yes 224, No 134, Blank 24

Barnard passed their local elementary school budget from the floor.

(Other results were not available at press time.)

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