Town Meeting

Watts: Town Meeting

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Legendary Vermont Political Scientist Frank Bryan is fond of saying “Real democracy takes place in small places” and drawing a direct line from ancient Greece to our New England Town meeting.

For the second time this year, Hartford voters will be asked to approve a pair of changes to the town charter on Election Day. Both proposed changes passed on Town Meeting Day but the Legislature refused to ratify the amendments, saying they were inadequately warned. One amendment would allow the town to implement a local option tax. The other would require an Australian ballot vote for all budget items put before town voters.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Rockingham voters sent a clear signal that they did not want a proposed detention center in Bellows Falls.

Town Meeting Day voters in Rutland will weigh in on a proposed $2.5 million swimming pool. The new facility will replace a 50-meter outdoor pool that has served the city for more than 40 years. 

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The State Board of Education will consider consolidation plans from three school districts at its December meeting.

State dam safety officials give final approval to Mount Holly's new Star Lake Dam. Morristown and Elmore will vote on merging town school districts. 

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In his campaign for president, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has brought talk of a "political revolution" to a national stage. And now a coalition of Vermont organizations is calling for a town meeting referendum to revolutionize how politics is funded in Vermont and the United States.

Nina Keck / VPR/file

Christopher Louras won a fifth two-year term as Mayor of Rutland on Tuesday, defeating his main rival David Allaire by more than 500 votes. Kam Johnston, who also ran for city assessor and the board of aldermen, won 99 votes.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

A group of University of Vermont students and staff braved the freezing weather Wednesday in an effort to rally their peers to vote on Town Meeting Day.

The group is enthusiastic about this election because the city council now has two seats that represent the area surrounding UVM which is dominated by students.

With that in mind, two students are also on the ballot this year. Senior Carmen Scoles is running as a Democrat in the Eastern District, a large area that covers UVM’s campus and surrounding neighborhoods where many students rent.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Colchester voters going to the polls on Town Meeting Day Tuesday, March 3, will consider adopting a 1 percent local option tax. If adopted, the town estimates the tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol could yield between $873,724 and $1.525 million in the next fiscal year.

Contractor bidding is underway for a new municipal complex in Waterbury. Towns get ready for some interesting votes on Town Meeting Day. Norwich voters will consider two major building projects next month.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

The budget Barre City voters will consider on Town Meeting Day does not fund the position of Assistant Cemetery Director and members of the Cemetery Committee are warning that cut could cost the city more than it saves.

The state is developing its first on-road bicycle plan for state highways. Real Estate items are in the news from Fairfield Pond, Mount Holly and Weston. And an open meeting law stumble means a revote on town property tax exempt status for Hard'ack Recreation Area in St. Albans.

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When Town Meeting rolls around in March, a lot of people will have something to say about their town and school budgets. But if you really want to be part of the budgeting conversations in your town, now is the time to start paying attention.

This is the time of year select boards in towns across Vermont are holding budget work sessions and meeting with department heads to build the budgets that are presented at Town Meeting. Similarly, school boards are working closely with their principals and superintendents to come up with a spending plan for the next school year.

Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Public Post reports on Montpelier's first parklet; the results of budget revotes in Colchester, Elmore, Fairfield, Fair Haven, Milton and Georgia; and the opening of Southern Vermont's new Valley Trail.

Here's a sampling of the week's Public Post Twitter updates from Plainfield, Brattleboro, Huntington, Norwich and more:

Next week, the Fair Haven Select Board will get to work on a third municipal budget proposal for fiscal year 2014-2015. On Tuesday, voters defeated the town's $1,861,421 revised budget by just seven votes,  with 203 voting in favor and 210 voting against.

In March, Fair Haven voters defeated a $1,908,559 budget proposal 216-267. Both proposals were less than the current $1,937,814 budget. Despite the lower bottom line, both proposals would have translated to a tax increase because the town used one-time carryover funds to decrease taxes in the current fiscal year.

Voters in Fair Haven are going to the polls today to consider a town budget that's the lowest since fiscal year 2006-2007. Still, if the budget passes, Fair Haven's municipal tax will go up about 4.25 percent.

Fair Haven is currently operating on a $1,937,814 budget, however last year taxpayers voted to use a budget surplus from the previous year for a one-time tax reduction. At Town Meeting in March, voters rejected a $1,908,559 budget proposal, which would have been a 1.5 percent decrease from current spending.

Susan Keese / VPR

Residents of Vernon have voted for a second time to eliminate the town’s police force.

The original vote to de-fund the Vernon Police Department came as a surprise at the town’s annual meeting this past March.

Local residents reaffirmed that decision at a special meeting Monday night that drew what some said was the biggest turnout in the town’s  history.

Voters agreed to contract instead with the Windham County Sheriff’s Department. They accepted a proposal made by Sheriff Keith Clark for round-the-clock police coverage at significant savings to the town.

On Town Meeting Day this year, 35 cities and towns voted down proposed school budgets - the highest number in a decade. But students in those towns still have to go to school in the fall, so school boards, administrators and voters have to find a workable solution.

For some of those budgets, solutions have already been passed. Others have gone back to the drawing board a second time. Many cities and towns still have to have a re-vote. Here's what's happening with each of the 35 school budgets that failed on Town Meeting Day 2014.

Susan Keese / VPR

Voters in Brattleboro overturned the town’s 2015 municipal budget in a town-wide ballot Thursday. The $16 million spending plan was approved at Brattleboro’s representative town meeting on March 22. But later, more than the required 50 town meeting representatives signed a petition to revisit the budget in a town-wide referendum. The budget failed by a wide margin, 771 to 478.