Next week provides an opportunity for every Vermont adult to become a legislator for a day.
Tuesday, March 6, is Town Meeting Day, when residents gather to hash out the issues and vote whether to allow their tax money to pay for next year’s municipal and school budgets.
From sand and salt for the roads to pay and benefits for town employees, along with talks about local infrastructure needs — potholes are bound to come up — and the overall safety and health of the community, voters who attend will be able to stand up and say their piece before what’s often the town’s biggest gathering of the year.
Yet, the number of people attending town meetings has been dwindling, and dialogues about school budgets are becoming less frequent in towns that have merged school districts with their neighbors, as their annual school meetings are held at a different date and all the budget decisions are made by Australian ballot.
But Town Meeting Day’s demise has been long predicted, and still the tradition carries on. In some towns in recent years, young people still dozens of years away from retirement have been joining the ranks of the older folks who’ve been populating the town hall seats for decades.
After all, there are always potholes that need addressing, and someone’s probably prepared a tasty meal, providing a post-meeting chance to sit down and break bread.
Here’s what the residents of Waterbury and Duxbury will be talking about next week.
The annual school meeting for the Harwood Union school district is Monday, March 5, at Harwood Union High School, starting at 6 p.m. in the library, to talk over school issues.
The day after is Town Meeting Day, when residents will talk town business, and vote on both town and school budgets.
Harwood school district
For the second year since the six towns that send students to Harwood Union High School voted to merge into one consolidated district, residents in those towns — Waterbury, Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield and Warren — will vote on the school budget by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day.
Polls are open in Waterbury and Duxbury from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters will be asked to approve a $37.18 million budget, a 2.1 percent increase. They will also be asked to allocate $544,000 from last year’s budget surplus to the school district’s maintenance reserve fund, the pool of money used to pay for improvements at all district schools.
The school district’s annual meeting has been divorced from the town meetings, and will be held March 5 at Harwood. The meeting starts at 6 p.m., and serves as an informational meeting for voters planning to head to the polls the next day, as well as an opportunity to elect officers for future special school meetings.
Waterbury town meeting
Town meeting in Waterbury starts at 9 a.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School, with polls open at the school from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters will decide whether to approve a proposed town budget of $4.76 million, of which $3.39 million would come from property taxes, an increase of about $350,000.
In addition, voters will be asked to approve $51,700 in appropriations for more than a dozen organizations, ranging from $100 for the Central Vermont State Police Advisory Board to $20,000 for the Waterbury Area Senior Association.
There is also an proposal to transfer $11,700 from the so-called “Calkins Fund” to the Community Action Service Team, which would use the money to help needy Waterbury residents.
In addition to the Harwood school budget, Waterbury residents will vote by Australian ballot for two Harwood school board members.
And there’s a slate of elected town officials, all unopposed: town clerk and town treasurer, three select board members, two library commissioners, a lister, a grand juror, a town agent and a cemetery commissioner.
Town meeting starts at 9 a.m. at Crossett Brook Middle School.
The town’s proposed $2.26 million budget, on paper, looks like a massive increase over the $930,338 approved last year.
However, the numbers are misleading. Most of the difference is for roadwork that should be covered by the $1.27 million Duxbury will receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and multiple state agencies. Taxpayers will supply $809,171 of the budget.
Voters will also decide whether to spend $155,000 from a capital reserve fund on a new tandem truck, after a trade-in of the current one.
In non-money matters, residents will discuss whether to elect a second constable and a dogcatcher.