By Alex Bunten | The Charlotte News
There was barely a political sign or a badge in sight outside of CCS on March 1, unless you count the floppy Kasich signs along Charlotte Hinesburg Rd. No one was in competition on the ballot, so the local political scene was ice cold. The presidential primary was, of course, another matter.
Without much meat on the town government bone, one would expect the next most contested issue of the day to be the municipal budget. Selectboard Chair Lane Morrison started off his budget presentation by proudly stating that if the town were a student, Sullivan, Powers & Co., P.C., the company responsible for the town audit, would have given it an A. No “material weaknesses” were noted and only three “significant issues” were found in the town finances, all of which were suitably addressed before the budget was printed.
Morrison also pointed out that the town will soon overhaul the Planning and Zoning Department. Jeannine McCrumb will be leaving as the planning and zoning administrator, and the position will be parsed into two jobs, but with the same number of hours. “We’ve come to the conclusion,” Morrison said, “working with our commissions, Selectboard and folks in the office that planning and enforcement really require separate responsibilities.”
The bad news came when Morrison announced that the tax rate would increase by $0.0128 to $0.1781. However, he explained that despite both expenses and revenues being down, the increase in taxes is due to the estimated 5 percent decrease in the value of the grand list. The updated grand list is expected to be complete by June, 2016.
CVFRS President John Snow covered fire and rescue stats for 2015. The total of 186 calls in 2015 was the second highest number of calls Fire and Rescue has ever had, though 25 percent of all calls were for false alarms. This compares to a statewide average for false alarms of 10 to 15 percent. An audience member asked if those calls were subject to fines, and Snow responded that no specific policy exists with regard to false alarms. Chris Davis joked that it might not be a good thing for the budget, as many false alarms originate from the Senior Center and CCS.
A mild-mannered, if not short by historic standards, discussion followed the presentations. Ultimately, the floor approved a $3,013,563 budget without a peep of rebellion—eerily similar to last year.
If you came to Town Meeting looking for controversy, two occasions at the end of the morning might have given you a rise.
The first was an advisory motion suggesting VCAM be disinvited from Town Meeting next year. Hired to provide audio support and to live-stream the meeting, VCAM’s less than ideal control of sound levels raised the ire of many audience members, one claiming, “It was the worst in 13 years.” (What happened 13 years ago?)
The start of the meeting was mainly conducted with one working mic, dutifully ferried around the room by volunteer 5th graders from CCS. (The new CCS principals reinstated the tradition of inviting students to volunteer at Town Meeting.)
After a sheepish discussion about the merits of such an acrimonious thought, the motion was revoked.
The second controversy came when Selectboard Member Matt Krasnow proposed an advisory motion asking the Vermont Legislature to reject Article 9 on the municipal charter if passed. Krasnow’s reasoning was that the language in last year’s advisory motion—Article 6 stated “Shall the Selectboard explore the adoption of a legislative charter…”—didn’t suggest action would be taken at the following meeting, rather it would be discussed again and explored.
Representative Mike Yantachka said that such a motion could “create a conundrum” for the Vermont Legislature wherein, if passed, the majority of residents would have shown their approval of the charter, but the fewer number of citizens at Town Meeting would like it to be rejected in order to design a better system.
The motion was voted down by a slim voice-vote majority.