Town meeting coverage has been made possible thanks to a donation made by Bob and Lucille Evens. Thank you!
Please note that Town Meeting was filmed by LPC-TV and will be available at their website and on Comcast TV.
The Cavendish Vermont Town and School District 2016 Annual Report, which includes "warnings" is available in PDF format on-line or in print from the Town Office.
Before the meeting began, the town’s attorney Matthew Birmingham gave a tribute to Rich Svec, who retired from his position as town manager, with over 28 years of service, in January. Birmingham informed the audience that there would be a town wide retirement and thank you party for Svec on Sunday, April 2, from 3-5 pm at Murdock’s on the Green in Proctorsville.
In keeping with so many things that are new for Cavendish this year-president, governor, town manager-there is now a new town moderator Mike Ripley. Former moderator, Will Hunter, is no longer a Cavendish resident and so stepped down after the March 2016 meeting.
The comments voiced by the state representatives that spoke Annmarie Christensen and Senators Dick McCormack and Alison Carkson, made it clear that they had little to report. Christensen summed it up best by explaining that the Governor wants a balanced budget without raising taxes, yet accommodating certain educational interests. It’s not clear how that can happen, plus, it wont be until July 1, when the federal government issues their budget that the state will know how much funding they will be receiving. Note that Vermont is a “net importer” of federal money, currently receiving approximately $2 in return for every dollar sent. Medicaid is the single biggest governmental benefit to VT, $1.1 billion which includes many human services beyond upfront health care-water testing, food stamps, housing, addiction services, corrections, mental health, public health and much more. For a more in-depth report, go to We are One Town-Could Governmental Cuts Impact Cavendish?
School: Several math errors were pointed out in the Town Report-On page 88-The savings Account Balance should be $9,641 and for the White Trust Fund, the word “increase” should be replaced with “decrease.” On Page 89 it could not be explained how the Hot Lunch Program starting budget was reported at $110, with money received for the year being spent, yet the remaining balance at the end of the school year had increased to $136.
On the topic of the school’s trust accounts, it was recommended that the school board should consider maintaining these funds and avoid the trust company fees. Board member Doug McBride said he would be sure to bring this topic up at a board meeting.
All articles, (page 85 of the Town Report) which could be voted on at Town Meeting, were approved. During the “Informational meeting,” for the budget that will be voted on by Australian Ballot, board member Sharon Huntley explained that the budget only increased by 1.4% while the per pupil cost went up by 4.70%. The difference between the two figures couldn’t be explained, other than to say it’s the formula being used by the state.
Huntley and the Principal, George Thomson, both explained that Cavendish’s enrollment is one of the best in the Twin River Supervisory Union (TRSU) and appears to be holding around 100 students. There has been a significant increase in students requiring special education-28 versus the previous year’s 19. Because CTES does well with these students, Huntley believed that parents were using school choice options and/or moving in to the district in order to provide a better opportunity for their child. Consequently, additional staffing is needed to accommodate these children.
ACT 46: The largest portion of the evening was spent on trying to understand Act 46 and the talks that have been going on for almost a year and a half. Signed into law in June 2015, Act 46 encourages and eventually requires school districts to merge into larger units over the next four years in an effort to better serve students reduce costs (taxes). This is one way to eliminate schools with very small enrollments, where educational opportunities are limited. Read more at Decoding Act 46: What it Means, How it Works.
At one time Cavendish was part of the Windsor Southwest Supervisory Union (WWSU), which merged-minus Londonderry-with the Ludlow/Mt. Holly district to form the Twin Rivers Supervisory Union (TRSU). Because of the recent merger, it made sense to consider forming an Act 46 District with these participating towns plus the addition of Baltimore. Note that when originally chartered, Baltimore was part of Cavendish.
Board member McBride explained that the way the Act. 46 law is structured, there was a carrot and a stick. If you didn’t participate in a district you would be penalized but if you did there were real cost incentives. Therefore Cavendish needed to consider becoming part of a district. After 16 months of discussion, it became apparent that:
a) The tax burden of keeping Black River High School in Ludlow open would significantly increase the taxes of participating towns. McBride, who serves on the Act 46 committee, said Cavendish taxes would have been raised by .20¢, which would be a hefty tax increase.
b) Mt. Holly will not send their students to GMUHS because it’s too far away. They want to be out of their district relationship with Ludlow, so they can send students to Mill River and be part of a Rutland district. As McBride described it, “this is like a couple where one party wants a divorce and the other refuses to grant it.”
c) Ludlow does not want to close its high school.
Since Ludlow/Mt. Holly were not going to budge, the other members of the TRSU, plus Baltimore, opted to form a Regional Education District (RED). This would mean that:
a) There would be one school board for all of the District schools, in this case CTES, Chester/Andover, and GMUHS.
b) The new district would now “own the school,” and be responsible for maintenance, upkeep etc. It is unclear how Cavendish’s Library, which is connected to the school but is also a town library, would be handled.
c) The education tax rate would be set for the district, not just the town.
Frustration was voiced over the lack of local control and the state’s continually making mandates that impacts everything from budgets to districts. However, this is a comment that has been voiced continually for at least the last 25 years.
There were many questions that were brought up that have no answers at this time-What happens to the TRSU? Will there be one treasurer? What happens to the endowments given to the town library? What benefit will it have for my child? Ultimately, there will be more public meetings on this topic that voters should attend if they wish to make an informed decision on May 2, when they vote on whether Cavendish should be part of the RED.
Town: All articles were passed (pages 8 & 9 of the Annual Town Report). Article 5, was amended as follows, “To see if the legal voters of the Town of Cavendish will authorize a special appropriation not to exceed $20,000 to construct a new building at the Transfer Station for storage and processing of electronic and universal waste.”
The discussion on this article was lengthy. Assistant town manager, Bruce McEnaney, explained that Cavendish would be receiving $16,000 and change to help defray the costs of the building. This money was coming from funds left over from the NH/VT Solid Waste District, which dissolved when Wheelbrator’s closed. Attempts were made to change the article to reflect the lower actual cost. Through this process, some issues in the town budget were brought up, which resulted in corrected figures on page 35 -Solid Waste Transfer Station Budgetary Information. Line item “Site Improvement Maintenance” should be reduced to $4,000 and line item Solid Waste Building Fund should list 0 versus $12,000.
Aeration System: Article 2, which will be voted on by Australian Ballot, states Shall the legal voters of the Town of Cavendish approve the issuance of a municipal bond in the amount not to exceed $790,000 for the purpose of complete replacement of the Town Wastewater Treatment Plant Aeration System.
The concern was raised that the cost of town water and sewage continues to increase and would this new system increase costs? Brendan McNamara, town manager, explained that the new system would increase costs but by how much was unknown. However, the aeration system has to be replaced but there are significant funding opportunities that would offset the costs noted in the Article. If we don’t act on this now, who knows what kind of funding opportunities will be available after July 1.
While those on town sewer will be responsible for paying off the loan, because of town “indebtedness” of a municipal bond, a town vote is required. Read a more in-depth report at The Dish.