BARRE TOWN — Turnout was better than last year, but not much, as residents passed both town budgets during Barre Town’s annual vote Tuesday.
Voters passed the general fund 591-123. That budget is $3,867,941, which is an increase of $128,385, or 3.43 percent, more than the current budget.
For notable changes, Town Manager Carl Rogers said in April the biggest increase is $102,790 for the town’s ambulance fund. Rogers said this increase was needed to offset the loss in revenue from ambulance calls paid by Medicare and Medicaid. He said the amount those programs will pay increases slightly while the payroll for ambulance service is going up by much more than that.
The second largest increase in the general fund is $29,575 in health insurance premiums for town employees. Next is $15,970 for contracted services for recreation. Rogers said that includes $7,000 for improving the softball field fence, $3,500 to remove invasive plants from the Town Forest and $4,200 to seal the skate park surface.
The proposed general fund also includes some decreases, the largest of which is in the fire department’s budget. He said the current budget includes $56,000 for new turnout gear which isn’t needed in the proposed budget.
Voters also passed the highway fund 652-66. That budget is $3,100,810, which is an increase of $95,620, or 3.18 percent, more than the current budget.
For notable increases, Rogers said in April winter maintenance is going up $96,235, but that’s offset a bit by a reduction in costs for summer maintenance. The town will also spend $22,400 more for salt next winter, which is included in the $96,235.
The town is also planning on paving some roads this summer, and this line item increases $13,710. Rogers said the roads, which include Church Hill Road and Camp Street, need some drainage work before paving can take place.
For decreases, summer maintenance wages went down $26,650, and equipment decreased $21,850. Rogers said health insurance for the road crew went down $33,450. He said the highway budget is also going down $21,860 because that money was included in the current budget as the town’s match for a grant for the East Barre sidewalk project that was completed last year.
For contested races, incumbent Paul White defeated challenger Justin Bolduc 423-246 for the three-year seat on the Select Board. Incumbent Jack Mitchell also defeated challenger Ken Alger 457-223 for the two-year board seat.
Barre Town has 5,813 registered voters, but only 723 showed up for this year’s vote. That’s better than the 308 residents that turned out last year. But this year’s vote also included the school budget for the Barre Unified School District at more than $45 million and a little over $3 million for Central Vermont Career Center. Both items also passed Tuesday.
Select Board chairman Tom White was frustrated with the low turnout, and said he’s not sure what to do about it. White said town officials have tried to get the word out via Facebook and Front Porch Forum.
“We constantly have discussions about it,” he said. “But how do you energize people to come out and take part in their civic duty?”
Tom White said if people can’t make it to Barre Town Middle & Elementary School to vote they can have absentee ballots sent to their homes.
“You don’t even have to remember there’s an election. (The ballot) comes in the mail and you fill it out and either mail it back or drop it off. It’s pretty simple,” he said.
Tom White said while adults don’t seem to care about the vote or don’t feel like their vote matters, maybe children should be taught at a young age that it’s their responsibility as a citizen to vote.