From budgets to bonds: Vermont Town Meeting Day 2020


From budgets to multi-million-dollar construction bonds, Vermonters have a lot to consider this Town Meeting Day.

Here’s a partial rundown of the ballot issues we’ll be watching Tuesday:

In South Burlington, a $209.6 million plan to build a new high school, middle school, and a new physical education and athletic center, as been a topic of intense debate for months. Opponents say there are less expensive options and have started a “Vote No” campaign.

“Until we have a positive vote we can’t finalize the structure for the financing of the project,” said South Burlington School Board member Bridget Burkhardt .

In Williston, voters will consider an estimated 1.5% increase in the towns budget, along with a $900,000 measure to pay half the cost of replacing a culvert on the town border with South Burlington.

In Colchester, a ballot item includes whether to add more technology and communication devices.

Colchester is one of eight towns — the others are South Burlington, Shelburne, Williston, Essex, Jericho, Milton and Winooski — where voters will weigh in on a $3.5 million request from the Champlain Water District. The bonds would pay for a new pump station and pipes.

Joe Duncan, general manager of the Champlain Water District, said a water tank that serves Winooski, Colchester and Essex has just a single water line. “If that line ever breaks, we don’t have a way to get water in and out of that tank,” he said. “So we’re adding a second line.”

In Essex, voters will consider a $15.3 million budget, a 3.4% percent increase over the current budget. They will also decide whether to expand the Selectboard from five at-large members to six members – three from the Village and three from outside the Village.

The Champlain Valley School District — which serves Charlotte, Shelburne, Hinesburg, St. George and Williston — is asking voters to approve a $6 million bond issue to fund improvements and efficiency upgrades to school buildings.

Eight seats on the Burlington City Council will be contested. Seven newcomers will attempt to unseat six incumbents, including Republican council President Kurt Wright, who is not seeking reelection.

Burlington voters will also consider a $91.5 million budget for the Burlington School District, which is seeking to increase per-pupil spending by 5.7% to $16,920.53. Another measure would raise the public-safety tax by 3 cents to buy a third ambulance and hire nine firefighters and EMTS to staff it.

And a proposed change to the city charter would increase funding to the Housing Trust Fund to almost $500,000 by 2021. The average Burlington homeowner would pay an additional $23 in property taxes in 2020.

In the Northeast Kingdom, more than two dozen towns will decide on a proposed NEK Community Broadband group. The goal of the group is to provide a minimum broadband speed of 100 Mbps to every home and business.

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