Moretown considers town offices costs, FEMA and approve budgets

On Town Meeting Day, Moretown voters approved a town budget of $1,068,802 via Australian ballot. This number marks a 1.3 percent decrease from last year.

“We’ve cut some places where we could, but we’ve made more investments in highways,” Moretown Select Board chair Tom Martin said at the pre-town meeting on Monday, March 4. Those investments include setting aside $20,000 for gravel and raising road crew salaries, which had previously fallen below those of comparable towns.

On the Australian ballot, voters also approved an article that will set aside $10,000 for the repair and upkeep of bridges and authorized the town to spend up to $5,000 on law enforcement to supplement the $5,000 already included in the budget. Voters also approved an article authorizing the select board to divide the revenue from Moretown Landfill so that 52 percent is deposited into the General Operating Fund to reduce the 2013 tax rate and 40 percent is deposited into the Savings Reserve Fund and 8 percent is deposited into the Capital Reserve Fund.

At the pre-town meeting, residents learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will cover 95 percent of the cost of replacing the Sainsburys’ bridge on Spillway Road off of Route 100B, which was destroyed due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. Moretown will be responsible for about $45,000 of the $1.2 million project.

While Martin acknowledged that this is still a lot of money for the town to pay to repair a bridge that leads to only one residence, “It’s a Class III road,” he said. “It’s town infrastructure, so we’re morally obligated.”

While FEMA has helped Moretown recover from the flood in many ways, when it comes to rebuilding the town offices, “I’d like to think the FEMA money coming to us will be pretty generous, but it will probably be disappointing,” select board member and town office committee chair Clark Amadon said, explaining that the municipal building is not considered a “critical facility” and therefore will not receive as much aid as a police or fire department building would receive.

At this point, the town office committee has narrowed their search down to three potential sites but is still seeking public input. A few residents responded by urging the committee to reconsider using space in Moretown Elementary School for the offices. “I think the school should make a sacrifice for the good of the town,” one taxpayer said.

Moretown Elementary School principal Duane Pierson responded by emphasizing the importance of the school to the community. And even though enrollment is currently down, “It’s always fluctuating,” Pierson explained, “and the school can’t risk giving up the space.”

The Moretown Town School District budget of $2,050,675 was approved by Australian ballot on Tuesday, marking a 5.1 percent increase from last year.

The Moretown Elementary School budget includes a 14 percent increase in health insurance and a 3.5 percent increase in teachers’ salaries, as set by the Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU). To help offset increasing costs, the budget also includes staffing reductions, as the school will cut back on one teacher and one part-time custodian.

“This is a change in our school. This is something we don’t take lightly,” Pierson said of the staffing reductions, but ultimately the school’s declining enrollment couldn’t support the expense.

Residents thanked Kaj Samsom for his work as Moretown school director and re-elected Tom Badowski for a three-year term. Diana Costello was re-elected for a one-year term, and Bruce E. Johnson was elected for a one-year term.

Residents also thanked Clark Amadon for his work on the Moretown Select Board and elected Rae Washburn III to take his place for a one-year term. John Hoogenboom was re-elected for a three-year term, as was Tom Martin for a one-year term.