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Newbury, Vt. to Vote on Forest Land

Newbury, Vt., Town Meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 5 at 10 a.m. in Newbury Village Hall to act upon 15 warning articles. Town officers and a waste-district budget will be decided by Australian ballot that day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Newbury, Vt. — Newbury voters participating in the March 5th Town Meeting will be asked whether they want to sell 20 acres of town-owned forest.

The Newbury Town Forest located in the southwestern portion of town is landlocked, leaving no way to access it, said Selectboard Chairwoman Alma Roystan.

“So it serves no purpose to the town,” she said of the property acquired through tax lien. If the article passes, an abutting landowner could purchase the land to accompany their existing property, she noted.

“Unless someone has a right of way to the property, it won’t do anyone else any good,” Roystan said, adding the town hasn’t attached a price tag to the land yet.

Abutters Troy and Erin Perry, owners of In Season, a consignment shop in Bradford, previously showed interest in the property and said recently they’d still be interested in purchasing the land.

“(We) would invest the much-needed maintenance as well as pay property tax on it every year,” the Perrys wrote in an email. “The town would once again receive a yearly revenue on this, plus the revenue from the sale which the town could put to a good use.”’

With no major equipment purchases and slight projected decreases in the amount of taxpayer dollars needed to fund the budgets, Newbury town officials said they consider this year’s Town Meeting routine.

The proposed $717,070 general fund budget is 4 percent less than last year’s approved budget. The amount to be raised by taxes — $505,000 — is a 2.3 percent decrease from current spending.

Last year the town repaired tennis and basketball courts, a one-time $11,700 expense not in the projected budget, said Treasurer Mary Collins — which accounts for the small savings. Collins said she worked to avoid major budgetary fluctuations and tried to keep the budget reasonable for residents.

Roystan said as a member of the town’s governing body, it’s important to understand the economic situation many people are in and to try to put forth reasonable numbers.

“We try to be extremely careful and thoughtful about the budget that we propose,” Roystan said.

If passed, two warning articles would add $11,000 onto the general fund budget. The articles relate to the town appropriating funds to the Newbury Woman’s Club to cover costs of painting the Old Village Church and allotting funds to the American Red Cross.

As for the $952,500 proposed highway fund, last year the town purchased a new plow truck out of the reserve fund and expanded the highway budget in part to cover rising fuel and repair costs. Due to leftover funds, taxpayers are being asked to raise $650,000 in taxes for the highway fund, a 1 percent decrease from last year.

Predicting the exact impact to the tax rate is difficult, Collins explained, because the tax rate is based on the grand list. Residents currently pay just under 55 cents per $100 of valuation, or $1,362 on a home assessed at $250,000.

Two portions of the March 5 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. meeting will be conducted through Australian Ballot, including those running for town office positions and the decision to authorize the Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District to expend a budget of $697,878. The town joined the district last August and receives recycling and hazardous waste removal services.

There are no contested races for town positions this year. Selectman Brian Emerson’s term is up and Town Clerk Susan Underwood said he is running again.

The majority of Newbury high school students attend Oxbow Union High School in Bradford. The annual Oxbow school meeting will be held on March 26.

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