2018-03-14 / Front Page

Chester voters reject $12.5M school budget, approve all other Town Meeting articles


Chester Town Manager David Pisha speaks to residents who turned out on Monday, March 5 for the Annual Town Meeting. Voter reconvened on Tuesday, March 6 for municipal elections and to pass all remaining articles.TORY DENIS Chester Town Manager David Pisha speaks to residents who turned out on Monday, March 5 for the Annual Town Meeting. Voter reconvened on Tuesday, March 6 for municipal elections and to pass all remaining articles.CHESTER — Chester residents came out on Monday and Tuesday, March 5 and 6 to cast their votes for school and town budgets and elected officials at the Annual Town Meeting.

While voters passed all articles on the Town Meeting warrant, they rejected 394-345 a proposed Green Mountain Unified School District (GMUSD) budget of $12,547,513.

That school budget, if approved, would have resulted in education spending of $15,659.09 per equalized pupil. The proposed school district budget was an increase of less than $15,000 over last year’s combined budget, according to information provided at the Monday meeting. It did not include the budget for the vocational program.

For town elections and bonds in articles 2 through 4, voters passed by Australian ballot several general obligation bonds, including support for new equipment for the highway and fire departments and restoration of the Chester Town Hall.

On Article 2, with 335-88, voters approved a general obligation bond not to exceed $236,000, less any state or federal grants. These funds include $110,000 for the purchase of a compaction roller for the Highway Department. Town Manager David Pisha said on Monday, March 5 that the purchase of the compaction roller, and the use of it on the town’s many dirt roads, would greatly extend the life and durability of those roads.

The bond in Article 2 also includes $115,000 for the purchase of a new sidewalk plow for the highway department, and $11,000 to purchase a hazmat trailer for the Chester Fire Department.

On Article 3, voters passed 353-70 a measure to approve general obligation bonds, less any grant funding, for the estimated $408,000 cost to restore the town hall building.

Article 4 focused on funding for a proposed “pocket park” on School Street. Voters approved general bond funding for that park, 260-161, for an amount not to exceed $25,000, and less any grant monies.

Voters also elected the following town and Town School District officials:

For the positions of town moderator and Chester Town School District moderator, both for a one-year term, William Dakin was elected with 396 votes for each seat. Dakin ran unopposed.

For the position of Chester Selectboard member, three-year term, Heather Chase ran unopposed and was elected with 339 votes. Lee Gustafson, with 357, and Ben Whalen, with 363, were both elected to one-year terms on the selectboard.

No write-ins were entered for the seat of town grand juror or the agent to defend suits, which were left unfilled with no one on the ballot for either seat.

Other elected town officials included Shirley Bartlett, with 377 votes, unopposed, for a three-year term for Trustee of Public Funds; and Whiting Library trustees, with three seats awarded as follows: Judith Copping, 357; Lyza Danger Gardner, 327; and Vanessa Heybyrne, 325.

A seat for a Green Mountain Union High School Union 35 director was filled by write-in vote for Deb Brown, with 27 votes.

For the seats of both Chester-Andover Elementary School (CAES) Union 29 director, three-year term, and Chester Town School director, three-year term, Marilyn Mahusky was elected for both by votes of 313 and 308, respectively.

An unexpired two-year term for a seat as a Chester Town School Director went unfilled, with no write-ins.

Voters also voted 327-111 to approve a budget of $2,748,573 for the River Valley Technical Center School District.

The previous evening, on Monday, approximately 90 Chester residents turned out at Town Hall, voting unanimously to approve 19 articles, and also unanimously approving the Town School District to accept payment from the State Department of Taxes under Act 68 and to act on the reports of the Town School District officers for 2017.

In the Town Meeting, articles 5 through 23, including for the town’s annual operating budget, all passed unanimously.

Voters approved a municipal budget of $3,038,539.63 to pay for current expenses and any of the town’s indebtedness.

Voters also approved a town expenditure from the Capital Budget Reserve Fund of $447,051.38, with $125,000 going toward the purchase of a new dump truck for the Highway Department, $45,500 for the excavator lease for the Highway Department, $35,000 for sidewalk improvement, and $20,000 for new signage. That total also included $60,000 to repair Route 35, $48,000 to purchase a new police cruiser, $34,500 to purchase new emergency equipment, $20,000 to pay a library loan, $15,000 for town hall renovations, and $8,000 for tree management.

Voters at the Town Meeting also approved $36,051.38 to be transferred to the Town of Chester’s Bond Plan.

Pisha said the Bond Plan was created to help keep the tax rate from “jumping.” The Bond Plan and Capital Plan are interlocked, he said, so the transfer going into the Bond Plan is no higher than what would have gone into the Capital Plan alone in past years.

The passed articles on Monday night also included several funding requests, such as for $2,500 in support of fireworks for the town of Chester’s Labor Day weekend celebration; $13,807 to support the services of Visiting Nurse Association of New Hampshire and Vermont; and several funding allocations to support family and community services including Senior Solutions, Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), Southern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), Chester-Andover Family Center, Windsor Partners, and the Meals on Wheels Program of Greater Springfield.

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