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Moretown voters approve level-funded budget and approve school budget

In addition to approving a level-funded budget of $1,068,802, on Tuesday, March 4, Moretown residents said yes to a new town dump truck.

Both articles were voted on via Australian ballot and, therefore, ineligible for discussion at Town Meeting, but residents who attended an informational meeting on Monday, March 3, had the opportunity to hear the Moretown Select Board explain its requests.

"We are very lean here in Moretown," select board chair Tom Martin said on Monday, explaining that the town looked to trim the budget wherever it could and in terms of finding and applying for grants, "We're on it," he said.

This year, the town was awarded 18 grants totaling about $3 million largely due to the efforts of select board assistant Cheryl Brown, who has been promoted to town administrator in recognition of the increased responsibility of filing and fulfilling each grants' requirements.

On Tuesday, Moretown residents voted 264-63 to approve the budget, which decreased 2.5 percent from last year's budget of $1,095,647.

The 2014 budget does not include the purchase of a new dump truck, "for a sum not to exceed $160,000 after trade-in of the 2004 dump truck, with $30,000 to be used from the Capital Reserve Fund and the remainder to be financed over the next three years with payments beginning in 2015," as Article 9 states.

The board chose to trade in the 2004 dump truck due to the fact that "in the last year, we've had to put $7,000 in it just to keep it working as is," select board member Reed Korrow said.

"If we don't replace [the 2004 dump truck] this year, we'd have to put a new body on it, which would be roughly $30,000," Martin added, and Moretown residents ultimately voted 235-91 to approve the purchase.

On Monday, the select board also spoke about an issue not on the ballot but surely on the minds of many in Moretown. "In case anyone hasn't noticed, the landfill has closed," Martin said. Moving forward, the loss of revenue from the Route 2 facility—upwards of $300,000 a year—will be hard to overcome, but the select board expressed support for the landfill re-opening, and "I'd like to see the state take a more proactive role" in helping it gain certification to construct Cell 4, Martin said.

At Town Meeting, Moretown residents voted to re-elect select board member Rae Washburn for a three-year term, as well as select board members Tom Martin and Reed Korrow for one-year terms. Residents also voted to re-elect Moretown school directors Jim Burmester and Bruce Johnson.

Moretown voters approve school budget 193-135

At Town Meeting in Moretown, a school district budget of $2,130,388 passed via Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 4, but not all residents were in support of the 3.8 increase over last year. When the polls closed at the end of the day, yes votes tallied 193 to 135 no votes.

Residents who attended the informational meeting on Monday, March 3, had the opportunity to hear the Moretown School Board break down the budget, which includes savings associated with the replacement of one teacher retiring, the reduction of one full-time support staff position and the replacement of one .40-time health aid with a .20-time position.

According to Moretown Elementary School principal Duane Pierson, the reduction in staff is in alignment with declining student enrollment over the past three years. When asked whether the reduction in staff has affected student performance, “our NECAP [New England Common Assessment Program] scores are lower than they have been,” Pierson said, but he explained that students are still adjusting to the changes. “I don’t think things are better or worse,” he said. “They’re just different.”

Despite cutbacks in the budget, an increase in health insurance costs “plays such a big part” in the overall increase, school board member Tom Badowski said, explaining that with the changing health care system in Vermont, the school hasn’t been able to negotiate for more than one-year contracts.

Tying in with discussions across Vermont, Badowski spoke to “state level issues” associated with the education funding system and a $19.3 million Education Fund surplus that is no longer available, and how factors such as the continued reduction of the statewide property grand list is driving up homestead tax rates.

At the local level, however, Moretown Elementary School continues to offer engaging programs, Pierson said, such as Educating Students Outdoors (ECO). This year, the school was awarded a Vermont Rural Partnership grant to support service learning opportunities, and the Digital Wish program provides students with netbooks and other technology.

Moretown voters approve school budget 193-135

At Town Meeting in Moretown, a school district budget of $2,130,388 passed via Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 4, but not all residents were in support of the 3.8 increase over last year. When the polls closed at the end of the day, yes votes tallied 193 to 135 no votes.

Residents who attended the informational meeting on Monday, March 3, had the opportunity to hear the Moretown School Board break down the budget, which includes savings associated with the replacement of one teacher retiring, the reduction of one full-time support staff position and the replacement of one .40-time health aid with a .20-time position.

According to Moretown Elementary School principal Duane Pierson, the reduction in staff is in alignment with declining student enrollment over the past three years. When asked whether the reduction in staff has affected student performance, "our NECAP [New England Common Assessment Program] scores are lower than they have been," Pierson said, but he explained that students are still adjusting to the changes. "I don't think things are better or worse," he said. "They're just different."

Despite cutbacks in the budget, an increase in health insurance costs "plays such a big part" in the overall increase, school board member Tom Badowski said, explaining that with the changing health care system in Vermont, the school hasn't been able to negotiate for more than one-year contracts.

Tying in with discussions across Vermont, Badowski spoke to "state level issues" associated with the education funding system and a $19.3 million Education Fund surplus that is no longer available, and how factors such as the continued reduction of the statewide property grand list is driving up homestead tax rates.

At the local level, however, Moretown Elementary School continues to offer engaging programs, Pierson said, such as Educating Students Outdoors (ECO). This year, the school was awarded a Vermont Rural Partnership grant to support service learning opportunities, and the Digital Wish program provides students with netbooks and other technology.

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