Royalton Voters Approve Increases in Road, Town Spending
South Royalton — With limited discussion, Royalton voters quickly dispensed with business, approving the town and road budgets and appropriation articles, leaving ample time to air other concerns during yesterday’s Town Meeting.
Although some residents wanted to continue the debate on education funding left over from Monday night’s school meeting, where the budget passed by 14 votes, others expressed more pointed concerns about the plan to build town offices on the property that was the former Herb Crawford’s Auto Land on Route 14.
The 163 voters attending yesterday morning’s meeting OK’d $1,011,835 of town spending, up about $83,000 over last year’s budget, or 8.1 percent. Also approved was $1,034,200 of road spending, about $56,000 more than was approved last year.
The combined increases will raise the tax bill on a $250,000 home by about $125 a year.
Higher health and vehicle insurance premiums and hikes in fuel costs are behind the budget increases, Selectboard Chairman Larry Trottier said.
Voters also approved $276,970 in two spending articles that level funded of nonprofit organizations and social service agencies. The two increases were $23,745 more than last year for the South Royalton Rescue Squad and an additional $1,200 for Royalton Memorial Library.
Two phases of an environmental assessment and cleanup of the Crawford property are nearing completion, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state approval for the construction of town offices on the site should be received by September, Trottier said.
At previous Town Meetings, voters OK’d the purchase of the land, which includes a large gravel pit. Once the environmental cleanup is approved, the town will complete the purchase of the property using existing funds, Trottier said.
After the purchase, the town will begin mining the gravel and will hold information sessions before going to voters for approval of a $1.5 million bond to build the town offices, he said.
Savings from the cost of gravel and providing space in the new building for the police department — and possibly the rescue squad — would save the town about $140,000 per year.
Repayment of a 20-year bond would cost the town about $110,000 annually, Trottier said.
“If the vote is approved, there won’t be any costs to taxpayers. And if it’s the wishes of the town, we could be breaking ground on the building by next Town Meeting,” he said.
Some residents expressed concerns, however, about whether the town needed or could afford the new facility.
Preliminary plans call to use the steel structure of the existing 10,000-square-foot building, which will save about $400,000 over the cost of a new structure. Town offices would occupy the front of the building, and police and rescue would be in the rear with separate entrances.
In her address to the Town Meeting, state Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Tunbridge, said that a review of education funding was on the agenda for the Legislature, which opened the floor to lengthy discussions of how to make paying for schools more affordable.
In the only contested race on the ballot, incumbent Collector of Delinquent Taxes Ilerdon Mayer faced Bonnie Kenyon. Results were not available last night.