Budgets pass handily in Worcester

Worcester resident Stewart Clark poses budgetary questions during Town Meeting at the Doty Memorial School gymnasium on Tuesday. Josh Kuckens/Staff Photo

WORCESTER — Things went pretty smoothly on Town Meeting Day in Worcester, with both the local school and town budgets passing Tuesday. The budget for the Doty Memorial School passed easily, and calls for the town to spend $1.358 million to run the elementary school, which will result in education spending of $17,255 per equalized pupil, a 5.42 percent increase compared with the current budget. School Board Chairman Will Baker said the budget is going up by 2.67 percent. The vast majority of the increase, about 2 percent, is tied to increases in salaries and benefits for those employed by the school. Baker said they were able to decrease the instructional services line item in the budget by 0.78 percent, but the supervisory union entered into a new transportation contract which increased the school budget by 1.43 percent. The Doty budget along with the U-32 budget, which was voted on by Australian ballot, would increase the tax rate by 14.3 cents. The $689,000 municipal budget proposed by the Select Board also passed easily. The budget will spend roughly $19,000 more to maintain local highways and pay for the day-to-day operations of the town. However, that 2.8 percent spending increase will be more than offset by the use of $30,000 in surplus money as a source of revenue. As a result, town officials expect 3.6 cents will be shaved from the municipal portion of the tax rate. Worcester is looking at an overall tax rate increase of 10.7 cents. A home valued at $100,000 would see a property tax increase of $107. One article that came closer to being voted down was $16,677 for the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier. That's $693 more than voters approved last year. Fire Chief Will Sutton wanted to know why he has to work hard to keep his department level-funded, but the library can come asking for more money. Sutton said he wasn't suggesting not supporting the library financially, but reducing the amount Worcester would pay. “So that we can keep more money back in town to support the town departments and the equipment and things we need,” he said. Penny Marwede, the town's representative on the library's board of trustees, pointed out that the library's request from Worcester has been level-funded for the past six years. Marwede said the additional money comes out to less than a dollar per person per year. Marwede said she knows Sutton provides a vital service to the town and she doesn't believe the library is a vital service. She said it's an educational service. “What you're doing is an extraordinary job saving lives. The library doesn't save our lives. It may save our minds, but it doesn't save our lives,” she said. Multiple other residents talked about the importance of the library. The article then passed in a close voice vote. Voters also approved a nonbinding climate change resolution. Among other things, the resolution urges the state to halt work on any fossil fuel infrastructure, mainly pipelines, and commit to a goal of relying on at least 90 percent renewable energy in the future. The resolution was approved after it was amended to include language encouraging support for energy conservation. Worcester was also one of several towns to sign on to Central Vermont Internet, a communications union district that hopes to offer affordable high-speed internet services to those without access though a nonprofit company. For elections, Paul Hill defeated Jaiel Pulshamp for an open seat on the town's Select Board. There were no other contested races.

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