Pomfret Voters Approve Fund Increase for School, Town Libraries
Orson St. John speaks during the school portion of Pomfret Town Meeting. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Pomfret — A contested Selectboard race went the way of the incumbent yesterday, and a series of long debates still ended with the one-sided passage of both the town and school budgets.
Jack Peters, a longtime volunteer firefighter who served on various town committees, was nominated early in the day’s proceedings to contest the board seat of Neil Lamson, the previous year’s Selectboard chairman. The only Australian ballot vote of the day went the way of Lawson, by a tally of 72-34.
A proposed $1.9 million municipal budget passed by voice vote, and the amount to be raised by taxes — $887,263 — went through immediately afterward without discussion. That budget is about $200,000 more than the current fiscal year’s spending.
Earlier in the day the proposed school budget, which totals $1.2 million, passed by voice vote as well. That amount is a $31,349 increase over the current year’s spending. The two budgets will lead to a projected tax increase of more than 4 percent, from $1.95 to $2.04 per $100 of assessed value. That increase would raise the property tax bill on a $250,000 home by $225.
While much of the meeting’s deliberations focused on small appropriations to nonprofit organizations, residents at times expressed discontent with the big picture.
“I just can’t afford that number,” said Doug Tuttle, looking over one of several budget increases. “It’s unbelievable.”
The school increase is in part due to an extra workday budgeted for the school librarian, a position that School Board Chairman Greg Greene said has morphed into something of an information technology role with added responsibilities. The board cut the job down to one day a week, Greene said, and the hurt from the move has since shown.
The librarian’s salary is set to jump to $23,616, double the current figure.
According to Greene, the increase in the K-6 school property tax rate, which is set to go up 4 cents, was the result of a push-and-pull between keeping costs down for taxpayers and providing the best possible education for students. He mentioned the school’s scores on the New England Common Assessment Program test, which came in top 10 in several areas statewide. The additional time for a librarian, he said, was an important addition to foster continued success.
“The results speak for themselves,” Greene said.
There was another library item on the hot seat before the School Board took over at 1 p.m. — a $36,935 appropriation for the town’s Abbott Memorial Library, the most expensive article beside the budgets. The amount is a 3.9 percent increase over the current year’s allocation.
It was the first of five consecutive articles that asked voters to approve amounts ranging from $500 to $3,950, the library excepting, and took up a large chunk of the seven-plus hour meeting, as several residents expressed concerns that every little bit of extra spending affects taxpayers.
However, after deliberation, all of the articles passed, with only a handful of dissenting votes each.
Other than the vote for the Selectboard seat, there were no contested races.