Norwich Opts to Fund Teacher, OKs Budgets

  • Before voting in Norwich, Vt., resident Mark Lilienthal tells his son Luke Lilienthal, 7, he will meet him outside Tracy Hall on March 6, 2018 after he finishes. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Elisabeth Bilar, of Norwich, Vt., votes at Tracy Hall in Norwich on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Norwich — Voters on Tuesday approved the school and municipal budgets, re-elected Selectboard Chairwoman Mary Layton and also backed Claudette Brochu in a three-way race for an open seat on the Selectboard.

And a separate $100,000 spending request from parents seeking to fund a fifth-grade teacher narrowly passed, 529-524. Marion Cross School’s proposed 2018-19 budget allowed for two teachers in that grade next year, leading to two projected classes of 22 students — a teacher-student ratio that the parents said was too high.

Brochu, a retired nurse who won a two-year seat vacated by retiring Selectman Steve Flanders, said she hoped to get to work on the issues she had espoused during her campaign, including finding cost savings in the municipal budget.

“I’m happy,” she said after hearing the preliminary results on Tuesday night, “and hopefully, I can get done some of the things that I and others in town would like accomplished.”

Brochu, with 398 votes, defeated candidates Leah Romano, with 303, and Rob Gere, with 296.

Layton won re-election to a second term, 503-459, over Marcia Calloway. Layton on Tuesday night said she looked forward to continuing the work she began in her first term, including a review of the town’s capital reserves and of the newest iteration of the Town Plan.

“I’m not ready to give up my train of thought,” she said. “I’d like to keep that going.”

Voters also approved, 952-95, a request from town officials to borrow up to $4 million toward infrastructure repairs from a devastating storm on July 1. State officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency may reimburse up to 12.5 percent and 75 percent of those costs, respectively, leaving the rest to the town.

Marion Cross’ 2018-19 budget, which passed handily, rose 1.85 percent in gross spending for a total of $5.68 million, which, together with the town’s assessment from Dresden School District, is tentatively expected to lead to a 9 cent increase in the property tax rate.

Norwich’s town budget also passed by a wide margin.

Municipal spending is up 0.9 percent to $4.5 million, which town officials estimate will lead to a town-related property tax increase of 1.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

If tax estimates hold, the owner of a $400,000 home in Norwich is projected to pay $56 more in municipal taxes and $360 more stemming from the school budget, with an extra $69 from the teacher request.

This year’s defeated Selectboard candidates saluted the democratic process and pledged to stay involved in town government through other means.

Gere, who ran partly because of concerns about the environment, said he would “find another board to volunteer for,” citing the Energy Committee as a possibility.

Romano said she enjoyed meeting voters and her fellow candidates through the race and thanked residents for staying active in town government.

“They’re saying they want to continue the discussion of the future of Norwich,” she said of the voters.

Calloway has regularly raised concerns about overdevelopment in town as officials consider revisions to the Town Plan, a document articulating the community’s vision for future land use.

That advocacy likely will continue during meetings of the Selectboard as it considers whether to adopt the plan, she said.

“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” she said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.