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Hartford residents OK operating budget, Wilder School overhaul at Town Meeting

  • Board of Civil Authority member Barb Reed hands an "I voted" sticker to Evan Ellerson, a physics teacher at Hartford High School, during the voting for municipal and school district budgets in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Eric Walker, left, and Jane Spaulding check in at the polling place in Hartford High School in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. The town voted for municipal and school district budgets as well as electing a Selectboard member. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • One-year-old Margaret Carbino peeks out of the voting booth while her mother Mary Ann Carbino votes in the Hartford election for municipal and school district budgets in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Polling took place at Hartford High School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 05, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Residents on Tuesday approved a $16.85 million operating budget for the town of Hartford, plus more than $5 million to overhaul the Wilder School.

They also signed off on the school budget, design funds for a new municipal pool and major infrastructure improvements in downtown White River Junction.

Unofficial results on Tuesday evening had the municipal budget passing, 919-224, while a tax increment financing project to upgrade water and sewer lines; install and repair sidewalks; repair a retaining wall; and pave and reconstruct roads on parts of North Main Street, South Main Street and Gates Street passed, 928-242.

Valued at $5.5 million, the project will use about 59 percent of the town’s remaining available TIF financing, which allows the town to make repayments with additional tax revenue generated by increased property values in the district.

“(The infrastructure improvements are) something that is going to have to get done, and it’s much cheaper with TIF financing than if we were to wait,” Selectboard member Kim Souza said. “It makes sense to do it this way.”

Along with a $39.6 million school district budget that passed, 854-329, voters approved a $5.4 million renovation project to improve the Wilder School, the 107-year-old brick building on Norwich Avenue that houses the town’s Regional Alternative Program for students with behavioral issues.

The project, which could still receive assistance from state and federal grants, could begin when school lets out this June and is set to include steps to make it compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, repair its roof, electrical and lighting systems and improve the interior layout of the building to make it more welcoming and less cavernous. Students from the Hartford Autism Regional Program (HARP) are expected to move into the building once the project is complete.

Voters also authorized the town to purchase a 3,069-square-foot home on 0.6 acres at 71 Highland St., next to the Hartford School Superintendent’s Office, for $315,000.

The district had reached a sales agreement with owner Tim Covell pending the voter approval of $214,000 in bonds or notes.

Australian ballot voting also approved $227,000 in local option tax revenue toward a new ambulance for the Hartford Fire Department, $99,650 to be divided among the town’s five cemetery associations, and $70,000 for design and engineering work on a new municipal pool. The latter issue passed, 716-421.

Dan Fraser — co-owner and general manager of Dan & Whit’s General Store in Norwich — received 970 votes while running unopposed for the Selectboard seat that had been held by state Rep. Rebecca White, D-Hartford. Fraser, 49, has lived in White River Junction for 26 years.

The municipal spending is expected to increase the town tax rate by 1.7 percent to 98.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value, or $2,474 on a home valued at $250,000. That factors in a projected 2 percent increase in the grand list.

The School District spending will result in a projected 0.7 percent tax rate increase, in part because of an increase in projected grant funding.

The projected school tax rate of just under $1.65 per $100 of valuation, for those homeowners who are not in Vermont’s income sensitivity program, would result in school taxes of $4,122 on a home valued at $250,000.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.