Articles for Village town meeting set

Bellows Falls
Bellows Falls Opera House. Photo by Joel Slutsky.

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – As the annual village meeting approaches, a discussion of the village budget and the proposed articles took center stage at an April 11 trustees’ meeting. The two main articles that will be presented for approval by voters at the annual meeting include a motion that the Bellows Falls Trustees adopt a fiscal year 2018 budget with expenditures of $1,998,070, of which $1,941,290 are to be raised by taxes.

A separate budget article for a fund balance surplus of $58,000 to enhance the trustee’s budget will also be on the ballot. Interim Municipal Manager Shane O’Keefe stated that this would be a 6 cent increase in the tax rate, but if the surplus passed the amount would be an increase of 8 cents. O’Keefe continued that the two cents, if approved, would go to increase the fund balance and give the village additional money in the event of an emergency, adding that the fund balance should be at 16 percent of expenditures and is currently well below that amount at approximately $81,000.

The inclusion of the surplus as a separate article elicited much response from the trustees. Trustee Chair Myles Mickle stated that by making the surplus a separate article, the board would have the opportunity to defend its decision before the voters. Trustee Stefan Golec added that the separate article would give more transparency to the process. Trustee Steve Adams stated that it would be wise to separate this out and the board should be prepared to explain its goal. O’Keefe stated that he agreed with moderator Mike Harty that a separate article would be more open. Trustee Colin James stated that the trustees have worked very hard and did the best they could and are presenting a very tight budget. Mickle stated that he felt the budget was a good compromise of the needs of the village vs. what the village can afford, and felt the separate article for the $58,000 surplus to replenish the fund balance was a good idea.

In public comment on items not on the agenda: Deborah Wright read a proposal and asked that the board take action before village meeting. The proposal includes: “What I propose is that the trustees allow for youth school and youth non-profit groups to sell snacks or homemade baked goods during our annual village meeting. More parents of participating students will certainly come to support their offspring, meaning more voters will be here for the annual meeting to hear, ask questions and vote on village articles. Students will have the opportunity to experience the unique democracy of Vermont in the meeting day process.” No action was taken at this time.

Manager’s report: O’Keefe reported on the following items. Hydrant flushing will take place between April 17 and May 5. The Route 5 paving project will begin just north of the Village on April 23. The wastewater plant improvements project is still moving forward and expected to be completed in November. The wastewater pump stations should be completed soon. The town highway department will provide lawn and leaf pickup between April 1 and May 31. Clear bags with grass clippings, leaves and garden debris will be picked up, but bags containing trash or other debris will not. Bags are available at the Town Clerk’s Office at a cost of four bags for one dollar.

The Bellows Falls Village annual meeting will take place at the Bellows Falls Opera House (downstairs theatre) at 7 p.m. on May 15 and the selection of village officers will take place at the Masonic Temple on May 16 with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The meeting can be read at www.rockbf.org and watched at www.fact8.com. The articles to be presented at the village meeting can be seen by clicking the trustee tab and scrolling down to Bellows Falls Village Corporation Annual Meeting Warning with Notice to Voters – May 15 & 16, 2017.

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