Thetford Voters Approve Town Spending
Thetford voters, including Joe and Dorothy Tofel at left, cast their ballots on a budgetary line item during Town Meeting on March 1, 2014. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Thomas H. Darrah, of Thetford Center, Vt., asks why military surplus trucks can't be purchased to be used as fire and town trucks during Town Meeting in Thetford, Vt., on March 1, 2014. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
A group of Thetford Elementary School students says the Pledge of Allegiance with voters before singing the national anthem at the start of Town Meeting in Thetford, Vt., on March 1, 2014. Clockwise from upper left are Eamon Deffner, Lily MacVeagh, Grace Davis, Lily Welch, Krystal McKinney and Cody Corcoran. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
After he thought there was a mistake in the town report, Thetford selectboard chair Donn Downey raises his fist in celebration that it is correct while speaking about the budget during Town Meeting in Thetford, Vt., on March 1, 2014. At left is town clerk Tracy Borst. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Thetford — Voters sailed through Thetford’s Town Meeting agenda on Saturday, unanimously passing all articles with surprising ease and little debate, but they still have another couple of days before they decide on the school budget as well as town and school officers.
Following Selectboard Chairman Donn Downey’s overview of the municipal budget, Thetford voters barely questioned two proposals to spend $1.7 million on general fund and public works expenses and unanimously approved both articles. Nor was there much debate on more than $200,000 proposed in other articles.
Even the nearly $8 million school budget that would add an estimated 12 cents to the tax rate prompted little discussion among the crowd of around 100. The school spending plan will be decided Tuesday by Australian ballot voting. Still, just one question was asked during a public hearing and the meeting adjourned before 1 p.m. It would have been finished before noon if not for the lunch break.
Residents and school officials looked around as if to ask, “Is that it?”
“I thought other people would have questions,” said Susan Leveret, the only person to speak up during the budget hearing. (She wondered why Thetford Academy teachers were paid less than their counterparts at the elementary school. The answer: their contracts are negotiated separately.)
School officials have hosted previous information sessions on the budget and said that, despite the expected tax increase, the spending proposal is fairly straightforward. In fact, it’s a few thousand dollars less than the current year’s budget. However, taxpayers will be shouldering a bigger share because of an estimated 7-cent increase in the statewide education rate.
“We were really collaborating to bring a budget that was flat to the voters,” said School Board Chairwoman Shannon Darrah after the school meeting. “While it does result in a tax increase, a lot of that is out of our control.”
During the Town Meeting portion of the morning, voters unanimously approved all articles, including proposals to add money to capital equipment funds for public works, fire and police.
Another article established an emergency infrastructure capital fund to replace and maintain the generators for the town emergency shelter and Town Hall.
Overall spending totaled $1,913,302, an increase of 2 percent from last year. But non-tax revenues will help offset the tax increase, which town officials estimate to be less than 1 percent. Currently, Thetford homeowners pay 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or $1,375 on a $250,000 house.
In addition to the school budget, Thetford voters on Tuesday will also decide whether to establish a public preschool program, which would be funded entirely out of grant money and at no cost to taxpayers.
Also, a Selectboard seat and spot on the Board of School Directors will be contested.
Lindy Jones and Robert Christiansen are competing for a two-year post on the school board. Meanwhile, Wayne Briggs is challenging incumbent John Bacon for a three-year seat on the Selectboard.
Ballot voting will be on Tuesday at Thetford Town Hall.
Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.