Exercising your constitutional right to vote can be exciting, especially if you’re a first-timer. But whether you’re a new or regular voter, ballots can be confusing. The Indy is here to help. Here, we attempt to explain each item on the two-sided ballot voters will receive on Town Meeting Day.
1. Town elections: The top of this year’s ticket is blank: No one has run for town moderator for a number of years, and 2018 will be no different. Just below it, neither town clerk Sheryl Prince nor town treasurer John Gifford face any competition for their respective positions.
2. Selectboard incumbent John Palasik is running unopposed for a three-year seat. But there’s a three-way race for two one-year seats on the board: Incumbent Chris Taylor and newcomers Don Franklin and Brenda Steady are all up for consideration.
3. Library elections: The library board has two races this year. Incumbent Veronica Valz and newcomer Henry Bonges are both seeking one three-year seat, and Christine Hauslein and Judy Schmidt both want the remaining year of a three-year position. Current library chairwoman Jen Dooley is running, unchallenged, for a two-year term.
4. School trustees: The Milton School Board has two contested races this year. Milton parent Emily Hecker is challenging chairwoman Lori Donna for a three-year seat. Summer 2017 appointee Greg Burbo faces contention from Milton parent Rick Dooley. Both Burbo and Dooley ran for appointment last summer, but Burbo prevailed. Dooley, clearly, isn’t giving up the fight.
Incumbent Michael Joseph remains unopposed, as does newcomer Jeremy Metcalf.
5. Town article I: This one is basic housekeeping, asking voters to approve the town report. Residents can pick up their own copy at the town offices or at the pre-Town Meeting event, Monday night, March 5 at 6 p.m. at the high school auditorium.
6. Town article III: The town of Milton is asking voters to consider a $7.67 million budget for FY19. The overall spending is down 2.2 percent, but the tax levy – the $5.75 million raised by property taxes – is up 2.3 percent. However, if the town’s grand list projections pan out, voters will only see a halfpenny increase on the tax rate. For the owner of a $250,000 home, that means an additional $12.94 added to your tax bill.
Town officials tamped down a larger increase by shopping around property and casualty insurance carriers. A switch saved nearly a penny on the tax rate, town manager Don Turner said. The budget also invests in technology, including additional cloud storage for selectboard packets and police body camera footage.
7. Town article IV: This item asks voters to exempt the Arrowhead Senior Center from paying property taxes for five years. The Milton Family Community Center and Milton Grange also historically ask this courtesy.
8. Town article V: The first of two bonds on the ballot will pay for fixes to two failing bridges on East Road. The $1.695 million item will rebuild Town Bridges 5 and 6, which have serious structural issues, down to the guardrails, which public works director David Allerton said are a liability issue for the town.
9. Town article VI: This second bond asks for $1.19 million to replace a slew of aging equipment. Included in this measure is $550,000 to replace the pumper fire truck, $240,000 for a new grader, $150,000 for a bucket loader and $115,000 for an excavator. The remaining $135,000 will purchase an additional sidewalk plow.
Allerton recognized it’s not ideal to replace all these big-ticket items at once, but the way he looks at it, “there’s that sweet spot where the benefit versus the cost goes away, and we’re beyond that on these pieces of equipment,” he said.
10. Article VII: Voters will decide if Milton should join a regional dispatch center, which would consolidate area emergency response teams under one roof in South Burlington. Area officials say allowing dispatchers to answer calls and deploy resources from a central location would shorten emergency response time by 71 seconds.
Milton 911 calls are currently dispatched out of Colchester, whose voters — along with five other towns’ — are also weighing the measure.
But some dispatchers have expressed opposition to the arrangement. In a January letter to the editor, Burlington Police civilian staffer and union rep Kathryn Clark compared the measure to the city approving a business loan without presenting a business plan.
11. School article I: The Milton Town School District is proposing a $23,423,539 budget for fiscal year 2019, a.88 percent increase over last year. This amounts to $14,362 in education spending per equalized pupil, a 1.53 percent decrease over last year’s spending.
District documents show the proposal will create a 2.98 percent increase on residents’ tax bills.
If approved, taxpayers with a $200,000 home with no income sensitivity would see a maximum increase of $86.20 on their tax bill, or $7.18 per month, district business manager Don Johnson calculated.
To keep the tax increase under 3 percent, trustees plan to use $894,557 of the unassigned FY17 fund balance.
If approved, the proposal would allocate funds for a higher substitute pay rate, sixth grade teacher, elementary math interventionist, middle school reading interventionist, field trips and some pre-K expenses.
12. School article II: MTSD is eyeing a $135,000 real estate purchase at 12 Bradley St. The home, adjacent to Milton Elementary and Middle School, is up for sale. The exact use of the building is yet to be determined, school officials say, but could alleviate school space issues. Officials say district offices could move there, or the school could build a parking lot.
Last year, just 1,720 of the town’s 8,138 voters showed to the polls, a 21 percent voter turnout. Let’s see what percent we can reach this year, Milton.
By COURTNEY LAMDIN and KAYLEE SULLIVAN