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Dorchester to Vote on Renovations

Surplus Funds Could  Help Fix Town Hall

Dorchester Town Meeting voters will elect town officials by paper ballot from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 at the Town Hall. Action on the remaining warrant articles will be conducted from the floor Saturday, March 16 at 10 a.m. at the Town Hall.

Dorchester — Town Meeting voters will decide whether to spend $20,000 from surplus funds on renovations to the 185-year-old Town Hall and 90-year-old Town Office building.

Selectboard Administrative Assistance Holly Buker said the Town Hall is in “desperate” need of a new roof and the entrance of the Town Office needs insulation and shelving for storage.

“At the Town Office we did renovations last year and put an addition on, so we finally have a bathroom here, but there is still more to do,” Buker said. According to Dorchester’s budget, last year’s renovations amounted to $26,000.

Although the wording on the warrant states residents will vote whether to “raise” funds, Buker said the $20,000 would come from the previous calendar years’ fund balance, and therefore it wouldn’t affect the tax rate.

“It’s money that we already have that rolls over,” she said.

Two of the three other warrant articles that involve spending funds would come from fund balance as well, if voters approve. They include adding $2,500 to the building maintenance capital reserve fund and placing $300 in the conservation fund, Buker explained.

Lastly, $1,000, which has already been calculated into the proposed $430,587 operating budget, would go into the reserve fund for the purpose of acquiring land for a town cemetery. Selectboard Chairman Sherman Hallock said the town, population 355, has been putting $1,000 into the reserve fund for “five to 10” years in preparation for the project.

Dorchester’s proposed operating budget, which combines the town’s general fund and highway budgets, is up $558 from the 2012 approved budget, documents show. The amount to be raised by taxes — $317,085 — is up $978 from last year.

“They really tried to shave off (money) from any place where we had funds left over,” Buker said of the Selectboard. “They took a hard look at everything.”

Dorchester residents currently pay a municipal property tax rate of just over $8.09 per $1,000 of valuation, or $2,023 on a home assessed at $250,000.

Including the county and school budgets — Dorchester is part of the Mascoma Valley Regional School District — residents in town pay a total tax rate of $19.04 per $1,000 of valuation.

The tax rate for 2013 hasn’t yet been calculated, Buker said.

Dorchester will split its Town Meeting over two days, with the first meeting being held on Tuesday, March 12 to elect town officials and decide the process by which Planning Board members are elected — both by paper ballot.

On Saturday, March 16, all but one warrant article will be conducted from the floor, including approving the operating budget and fund appropriations.

Lifelong Dorchester resident Michael Howe, who previously served on the Planning Board, is running for a Selectboard seat against incumbent Hallock, who has chaired the Selectboard for the past three years.

Hallock, an eight-year Dorchester resident, said the Selectboard accomplished “a lot” this year, such as working to get broadband Internet in town and completing two Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.

“I decided to run again because we had a great year this year and it was an honor and privilege to serve with my other two selectmen,” Hallock said. “I’m looking forward to keeping the ball rolling if elected.”

Attempts to reach Howe were unsuccessful.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@gmail.com.