By Norwood Long
Special To The Standard
POMFRET — The annual Pomfret town meeting will be held in Town Hall on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, starting at 9:00 am, followed by the annual Pomfret school district meeting at 1:00 pm. Voting by Australian ballot on the WUHS budget will take place in Town Hall from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm the same day.
When taxes are involved, no news is good news. Despite storm-related expenses of more than a million dollars to fix over 9 miles of damaged and destroyed roads, which required over 37,000 tons of stone from Pike Industries, Irene only added $162,533 to the expected 2012 tax bill for the town of Pomfret. The rest of the costs are covered by FEMA (75 percent) and other federal and state funds administered by VTrans—or at least they are expected to be covered, according to select board member Neil Lamson, who has been responsible for the paper chase. “We’ve only seen the money for one of the more than 40 projects, but I believe the rest will be forthcoming,” said Lamson in a recent conversation. In a tribute to the town treasurer he went on to say, “After all, the most important thing is complete and accurate records, and few towns can do better than our Hazel Harrington.”
When all the budget items are considered, the net impact on the town portion of the tax bill will be a 10.5 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxes, from $802,945 last year to $886,957 this year. Those numbers, and many more, are now available in the annual report for 2011. These are being mailed to those who requested a hard copy from Town Clerk Lynn Leavitt; they are also available on the internet (www.pomfretvt.us, click on “Annual Meeting”) for everyone else. Whether on a paper copy or on the web, in celebration of the town’s 250th anniversary this year’s cover shows photos from 1941’s annual meeting, plus a new photo in which selectman Neil Lamson is shown using the same ballot box today that was used back then—why spend money for a new box when the old one is in good shape?
One item not singled out for discussion by the annual report but which will take place during this year’s annual meeting is the election of a selectboard member to replace Robert Harrington, who has announced that after 12 years on the board he will not run again. Harrington said, “No one has come forward to talk to me about the job, but if anyone is interested I’ll be glad to talk with them.” Selectman Lamson wondered whether the traditional procedure of having the candidates identify themselves only at annual meeting needed to be reconsidered.
“Maybe we should be having meetings prior to annual meeting where potential candidates can express interest and answer questions,” said Lamson.
The annual Pomfret School District meeting, to be held at 1:00 pm, will consider a budget that is down from last year’s by nearly 7 percent, from $1,245,322 to $1,162,156. Even so, when high school spending and the common level of appraisal (CLA) are taken into account, the Pomfret school tax rate is expected to increase by 4 percent. According to Pomfret school board chair Greg Greene, “We’ve done all we can to hold costs down, but school taxes are controlled by the state.”
One item not in the town or school warning but of interest to the community is the declining enrollment at the Pomfret School. From 2010 to 2013 the expected enrollment is expected to drop by 22 percent because, Greene said, “Young families are finding it difficult to buy a home in Pomfret, and we don’t see children entering kindergarten to replace those lost through graduation.” Greene went on to say, “The really important thing is the quality of education for our children. Academically we’re still doing well—last year’s standardized testing showed us to be among the top 7 in the state, and the results of this year’s tests, just announced, are even better. But as enrollment drops, it gets harder and harder to implement special programs.”
Greene said he is talking with other towns on the possibility of consolidation, “But,” he went on,” it’s important to understand consolidation doesn’t necessarily reduce costs—if we overload Woodstock, for example, and they have a large construction program, all of our costs will rise.” Greene also said he and Robert Coates attended a recent selectboard meeting to suggest the possibility of joint town and school board discussions. “I don’t know if there is anything the town can do to make it easier for young families to buy or build in Pomfret, such as changes in zoning, but we’d like to explore all options” said Greene.
This year’s town report includes tributes to Betty Emmons of Cloudland Farm, remembered for her, “…generosity, kindness, and her quick wit,” and to long time road commissioner Denny Potter: “It is said that during the winter months he slept with one hand out the window so he would know when it began to snow.” Both will be missed.
TOWN MEETING 20E
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Copyright © 2012 The Vermont Standard 02/16/2012