On Monday evening, March 2, less than a hundred voters met for Town Meeting. The school agenda was first this year, followed by the town portion. The following activities took place during the course of the evening:
School: Primarily an informational meeting, there was considerable concern about the shifting of funds from the CTES budget to the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, particularly in the area of Special Education. As several voters noted, it is hard to vote for a budget that is opaque and not easily understood. However, the shift of funds from local budgets to supervisory unions is due to Acts 153 and 156 and consequently, the issues Cavendish is having are not dissimilar to other districts.
As discussed in the Informational Town Forum, the CTES budget, while up 9.8% from last year-is offset by increased revenues and so the actual increase is more in line with 1.8%. However from a tax rate perspective, due to per pupil cost, that tax rate will actually be a half a percent less than last year.
Principal George Thomson and the school board have proposed a budget that decreases time for maintenance and nursing. Since the fall, CTES has an increase in enrollment by 13 students, two of which are out of district and whose “sending towns” pay $15,000 per pupil. Because of the significant increase in students, particularly in the K-2 grades, the board has included funds for a teacher position for the currently combined first and second grades (FANS unit). This will result in the school returning to one teacher per grade.
Special education was brought up a number of times. As Thomson noted, CTES has 64% of its students on reduced or free meal programs, which as a group, historically tends to have a higher special education need. However, the board is aware an incoming student for Fall 2015 who does have a significant special education need and are currently preparing to meet this student's need.
Town: For Article #2, adoption of the 2014 Town Report, it was noted that the town assets on page 38 did not include the Cavendish Stone Church. Richard Svec, town manager, said that the insurance value of the church of $79,000 will be added to the list.
Articles 3 and 5 were adopted as written. Article 6, was amended to read Will the voters adopt the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Budget of $1,316,695 as proposed by the selectmen? This passed unanimously. Article 7 was adopted after being amended to read Will the voters authorize the Board of Selectmen to set a tax rate sufficient to support the Fiscal Year 2015-2106 Budget, as well as the veterans’ exemptions and the local agreement shortfall?
Article # 4-the town assuming control of the burial grounds-was the most discussed item on the agenda. Svec explained that in the past five years, the town had been picking up more of the responsibilities since the Cemetery Commission requested assistance with bookkeeping and insuring that those working in the cemetery were covered by workmen’s compensation. In addition, he and various selectmen voiced concerns about the impropriety of cemetery commissioners being paid to work in the cemeteries and the squabbling that has been happening at various meetings over the last several years. In fact, at the end of 2014, two of the five commissioners had resigned and only one commissioner had applied for one of the three elected commissioner vacancies.
Svec explained that if the town were to take over the burial grounds, a sexton would be hired along with a seasonal grounds crew. Those currently working for the cemetery would be eligible for these positions.
Members of the Cemetery Commission discussed not only their commitment to the cemeteries but also the low wages being paid ($12 an hour) and the back breaking labor required to maintain the cemetery grounds.
A paper ballot was taken and by a vote of 54 to 20, Article 4 was adopted by the town voters.
Balloting on Tuesday, March 3: The school budget and various town officials are elected via Australian Ballot on Tuesday following Town Meeting. The polls are open from 10-7 at the CTES multi purpose room.
On the last page of the Town Report, a sample ballot is included. The town moderator, Will Hunter, asked if there were individuals interested in being write in candidates. While there were no candidates forth coming for Auditor (2 and 3 year slots) or for Town Grand Juror (1 year), two candidates have expressed interest in the one year selectmen’s position. They are Jillian Flinn, who is the current animal control officer, and Duane Warren. Julia Gignoux would also like to be considered as a write in candidate for Library Trustee.
There has been confusion over the GMUHS Director, which is listed for one year. Currently this position is held by Stewart Lindberg, who posted to the Cavendish VT Facebook page last evening that he is interested in being re elected to this position. Mike Kell has also expressed interest in this position.
Town of Cavendish Distinguished Service Awards: In thanks for outstanding service to the community, the following citizens received this award:
• Sara and Rhyan Devereux and Brad Frye, along with Sara and Rhyan’s parents Shannon and Chad Devereux for their dedication to the creation of a playground for the Cavendish Village Green. A separate ceremony will be held to honor these students since it was well past their bedtime when the awards were made.
• Peter LaBelle who serves as town auditor and head of the town’s energy committee and works on numerous community boards. He is chair of Black River Good Neighbors board and has served in this capacity for the Cavendish Community and Conservation Association (CCCA).
• Curtis Bidgood who donated the funds so the town could purchase the property adjacent to CTES.
• Margo Caulfield for her work with the Cavendish Historical Society and keeping the community informed through digital outreach (Cavendish Update and Cavendish Connects) and most recently the push for town wide broadband.
• Dan Churchill for his life time of service to Cavendish. He was a selectmen for many years and continues to serve on the Planning Commission boards as well as various other community boards (Senior Center, Home Health and Hospice, Cavendish Historical Society etc.)
• Cavendish Community and Conservation Association (CCCA): The contributions of the CCCA have been considerable since its formation 10 years ago to stop a proposed quarry. More recent activities have helped the town to secure important funding to help with various conservation projects and for the last eight years have offered the Cavendish Community Fund, which supports many community projects with small grants. Many members of the town’s Energy Committee are also on the board of the CCCA. Robin Timko, chair of CCCA, accepted the award.
House Concurrent Resolution in Memory of Deryl J. Stowell: Mark Huntley, State representative, read HCR 50 and presented a copy of the resolution to Deryl Stowell’s daughter Sara.