This article first appeared in the February 23rd, 2012 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Kate Stillson
Special To The Standard
READING — Taxpayers in the town of Reading will vote this Town Meeting day on whether to approve an $800,000 2012-2013 Town Budget with $525,000 to be raised by taxes, a $25,000 increase over this current budget. Unfortunately, in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, the town was forced this year to spend an additional $825,000 in contract labor, overtime and materials while waiting eagerly for Federal and State Disaster Relief funds.
“To date, we have not received any funding from FEMA or the State,” wrote Selectboard members Robert Allen, Gordon Eastman and James Peplau, in a letter to voters. “In the meantime we have one outstanding loan for $500,000 and have opened an additional line of credit for another $500,000.”
According to Selectmen, the town has spent the first $500,000, and taxes collected in November, to cover all bills to date. “We will be borrowing from the (second) line of credit to operate the Town going forward.”
This spring the town will focus on repairing the bridge on Archer Road, finishing retreatment of Tyson Road and other remaining ditch and culvert work. Repairs to Niagara Street, Park Circle and Weld Cemetery Road are still in discussion. “There could be as much as another $500,000 in expenses before we are through,” wrote the Selectboard. “Our initial estimate of damages was around $1.3 million and we will probably exceed that by some amount.”
Towns around Vermont are expecting substantial State and Federal Aid. Reading is expecting FEMA to cover 75 percent of the final repair costs, totaling approximately $975,000. Towns have been informed by the State that they will be providing an additional 15 percent, in Reading’s case this would amount to an additional $195,000. This would leave the town, if final costs do total $1.3 million, on the hook for the remaining $130,000.
More information will be provided on Saturday, March 3rd at 10am during Town Meeting at the Reading Elementary School.
In other Town Meeting news, the School is requesting $834,000 this year, a 2.7 percent increase over the prior year’s $817,000 budget. The amount to be raised by taxpayers is estimated at $678,000.
Included in the increase are a part-time preschool program, increased staffing hours for counselors, nursing and an extra half-day for Dr. Lou Lafasciano, Reading Elementary School’s Principal. Also included in the increase are additional funds for staff development, educational supplies and school-wide enrichment activities.
According to projections, enrollment in a Pre-K program could be as high as ten children aged three to five. This would increase school-wide enrollment from 34 to 44 students.
“It will be up to the voters of Reading to decided in a single vote, yea or nay, whether our school moves forward towards sustainability,” wrote Dr. Lafasciano in a letter to the 481 registered voters of the town of Reading. “The choice will be yours at Town Meeting.”
As is tradition, breakfast will be served from 8 to 9:30 prior to the Saturday, March 6th Town Meeting. The townsfolk will need the nourishment for the long day ahead figuring out how to pay for the past while still looking forward.