Town Meeting preview: Thetford budget voting has new wrinkles this year

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2019 8:38:38 PM
Modified: 2/25/2019 11:29:28 AM

Thetford’s Town Meeting and annual School Meeting will take place starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, at Thetford Academy. On Tuesday, March 5, voters will elect town and school officers and decide on the school district budget by ballot. Polls that day will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Thetford Town Hall.

THETFORD — Voters on Town Meeting Day will be asked to approve $2.76 million in spending, a 3.9 percent increase, while choosing one of two candidates in the town’s lone contested Selectboard seat.

Meanwhile, nearly $8.7 million is on the table in School District spending, a 5 percent increase per equalized pupil.

Budget voting will have a couple of twists this year. One change is that money for the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department ($188,733), the Thetford Library Federation ($107,585) and other entities not governed by Town Hall will be listed — and voted on — as separate line items, rather than incorporated into the general fund.

“As a Selectboard, we decided that the general fund will only be for items controlled by the town,” said Chairman Stuart Rogers. “The fire department, the library — they all have their own boards and/or trustees. We felt that lumping them in with the town budget was not being responsible for voter transparency.”

Another change comes for any social service agency requesting appropriations on Thetford’s warning. Previously, nonprofits such as the White River Council on Aging, Clara Martin Center and the Visting Nurse Association were required to file a petition for warning placement only if there was a change to the amount requested. This year, all such entities were required to submit petitions.

In all, nine of the 20 social service agencies that received funding from Thetford in 2018 successfully petitioned for warning articles this year, while two were absorbed into other line-item budgets.

“That was another voter transparency issue where we wanted to reset the bar,” Rogers said.

Thetford’s Department of Public Works is requesting just over $1 million, an 8.7 percent increase Rogers said is largely meant to help pay off interest from loans the town had to take out following storm damage in July 2017 because of slow reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Highway Association.

“If you take away what we owe there, the (DPW) increase is only 1.5 percent,” Rogers said.

The Selectboard race for the second year of a two-year term pits 31-year-old Nick Clark, a Norwich native who has lived on Academy Road for three years, against retired firefighter and EMT David Goodrich, 63, who has lived in town for about 30 years.

Goodrich served more than 30 years with the Hanover Fire Department and later volunteered with the Thetford Fire Department and Thetford FAST Squad, as well as with other fire departments in the Upper Valley, according to a post on an email list. He also is past president of the Upper Valley Fish & Game Club and currently sits on the board of directors for the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

Clark, a 2006 Hanover High graduate and freelance web developer, said he was inspired by Bernie Sanders to enter politics and ran unsuccessfully for a Vermont House seat in both 2016 and 2018.

Clark said he was not expecting the Selectboard seat to be contested when he decided to run. “I really just see it as a way to apply myself and to learn about the community,” said Clark in a phone interview. “There are a number of pivotal issues coming up in town that I would like to help go smoothly.”

That includes the hiring of Thetford’s first town manager, a position approved by voters at a Special Town Meeting last fall. The Selectboard budget includes funding for half a year’s town manager salary, Rogers said, meaning he or she could start on July 1.

Another important issue pertains to potential uses for the Timothy Frost United Methodist Church building, whose ownership was transferred to the town last month as a gift from the United Church of Thetford. An article at Town Meeting will request $5,000 for a Timothy Frost Building Fund for future care of the property, which is next to Town Hall.

On the school district side, the primary budget of more than $8.6 million would result in education spending of $19,352 per equalized pupil, a 4.5 percent increase from the current school year.

An additional article would raise $50,000 for the district’s capital improvement fund to help defray recent maintenance project costs at Thetford Elementary School, according to School Board Chairwoman Shannon Darrah. If both articles are approved, education spending per equalized pupil would be 5 percent.

“This year at TES we had significant issues. We had to rebuild a boiler and had septic and waterline problems that kind of all hit all at once,” Darrah said in a phone interview. We feel like it’s a good time to replace some of the money in our CIP because the building is getting older and there are more things that are going to need to be replaced.”

A pre-Town Meeting candidates forum is as scheduled as part of Monday’s Selectboard meeting at Town Hall, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3216.


Thetford’s Town Meeting and  annual Scho ol Meeting will take place starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, at Thetford Academy. The proposed appropriation for operations of the Thetford Volunteer Fire Department is $188,733. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect location and incorrect budget number for the fire department. 

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