On Tuesday, Feb. 24, the Cavendish Community and Conservation Association (CCCA) hosted their annual Town Meeting Informational Forum. While Town Meeting, Monday, March 2 at 7 pm, will start with the school agenda, the Forum began with the Town’s report. LPC-TV filmed the meeting and will be aired on Comcast and on-line.
Town: Rich Svec, town manager, explained that while most of the articles are similar to previous years, pages 10 and 11 in the Town Report, articles 6 and 7 are being done separately this year.
Article 6 is the adoption of the FY 2015-2016 Budget while 7 pertains to setting the tax rate. The state does not acknowledge the town’s exemptions for Fletcher Farm and Black River Health Center and they will only give a tax break on $10,000 of property value for disabled veterans, while Cavendish provides tax relief for $40,000. Therefore to meet the state’s school tax requirements for these exemptions, taxpayers will need to make up this difference.
Article 4 (page 10) asks voters to approve of taking the town’s burial grounds out of the charge of the board of cemetery commissioners and place same under the charge of the selectmen. Svec said that the selectmen came to the conclusion that this was necessary for the following reasons:
• At the beginning of 2014, there were five commissioners, two of whom resigned before the year was over.
• Of three positions available for election this year, only one person signed up to be a commissioner.
• Since several of the commissioners were also contractual seasonal employees, there was a concern about the propriety of commissioners signing their own paychecks and giving themselves a raise.
Svec said that a part time Sexton would be hired and that contractual seasonal workers would still be needed to do the work in the cemeteries, which includes the continued expansion of the Twenty Mile Road Cemetery.
Several members of the Cemetery Commission were present and explained that historically each cemetery had its own paid sexton, who served on the cemetery commission. They also discussed the low wages of seasonal workers ($12 an hour) and that given the requirements of mowing five of the seven cemeteries by hand, the town would be hard pressed to find workers for such low wages.
The town budget is up by 1.7% but if the voters approve article 4, the town taking over the burial grounds, the actual increase will be less than 1%. The increase represents a 2.5% increase in cost of living for town personnel, increases for road salt and highway equipment and for the Cavendish Historical Society. The latter is responsible for maintaining over a half million dollars of town property (Museum Building and Cavendish Stone Church) and significant upgrades are needed for the Museum Building. “It’s a way to protect our investment,” Svec noted.
Overall, the town budget increase is less than the cost of inflation.
School: Principal George Thomson provided an overview of the Cavendish Town Elementary School’s (CTES) budget. Even though the report shows 93 students enrolled at CTES in October 2014, the number has increased by 13, with two students being “tuitioned in” by other school districts, and 11 children attending because their families have recently moved to town.
The increase in students requires that another teacher be hired for the 2015-2016 school year. For the last several years, there has been a combined 1st and 2nd grade. The new teacher would return the school to “one teacher per grade” for a total of seven teachers.
There have been shifts in how the supervisory union is dealing with special education, reflecting Act 153, and so there are higher costs in the supervisory union budget for this service and a significantly lower cost item in the CTES budget.
Thomson noted that the contracts with the teachers and para educators have yet to be signed and that what appears in the report is a best guess estimate. There has been an increase in health insurance by 4-½ %. There has been an increase by $5,000 in the technology budget, since nearly everything is being done digitally now. Slight reductions have been made in nursing hours and maintenance.
Overall the school budget is up by 9.2%, however, the increased revenues (tuition costs are $15,000 per out of district students), brings this number down to 1.8% and when it’s all said and done, the tax rate will actually be slightly less this year.
Town Meeting: The March 2 (Monday) meeting will start at 7 pm in the CTES multi purpose room. While the school portion is first, this is an informational meeting as the budget is voted on by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 3, 10-7 at the CTES Arts room. There will be a short break between the school and town meetings. A copy of the town report is available on-line and at the town office.