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Town finalizes FY 2017 budget

DUMMERSTON—After making a few adjustments, the Dummerston Selectboard finalized their Fiscal Year 2017 budget to present to Town Meeting.

Some highlights the board discussed at their Jan. 6 meeting involved law enforcement, compensation and stipends, heavy equipment, and the capital fund.

In the municipal portion of the budget, the board opted to increase the line item for fees paid to the Windham County Sheriff’s Department for the town’s law enforcement needs. Because the sheriff’s department will up their patrols from 18.5 hours per month to 20, that part of the budget increased by $882, for a total of $11,760 for the year.

Members of the Planning Commission asked the board for $1,000 for the year for a clerical assistant to take minutes at their meetings.

A lengthy debate ensued.

Some board members felt the $8,000 grant that the Windham Regional Commission (WRC) secured for the Planning Commission should cover their clerical needs. But board member Jerelyn Wilson asked if the grant funded that expenditure.

Selectboard Administrative Assistant Laurie Frechette said WRC did not take the Planning Commission’s official minutes, so, no, that cost is not covered by the grant.

Wilson made a case that the Planning Commission’s clerical needs were labor-intensive and critical to the town’s functioning, especially because of the revisions to the bylaws the commission has been making. She also noted the challenge in finding consistent volunteers to take official minutes.

Rather than cut the item from the budget completely, the board decided to reduce the amount to $500 for the year.

“To eliminate it entirely seems harsh,” said board member Joe Cook.

Cook also made his case for an increase in the Selectboard Chair’s yearly stipend. Currently, all five board members equally divide the $2,500 stipend allocated in the budget.

He argued the board chair “has substantially more responsibilities the rest of us,” and proposed the chair receive $600 per year, noting the extra $100 “is a token amount.”

Board Chair Zeke Goodband argued against the increase, explaining the chair has no greater power than the other board members, and all board members can share the responsibilities. By keeping the stipends equal, “we can level the playing field.” Goodband also mentioned the importance of fiscal responsibility.

Although board Clerk Gurudharm Khalsa agreed with Cook’s sentiment, he said he also understood why the stipend should be level amongst all board members.

The board decided to maintain the stipend of $500 per board member for FY17.

With that decision, the board was then able to pass the FY17 budget for Dummerston’s General Fund, for an amount of $411,547, with a unanimous vote.

The board unanimously approved the Highway Fund, for an amount of $495,390. One notable change was in the increase of chloride by one-half truckload, at a cost of $11,400 for FY17. Last year’s cost was $9,350.

Goodband proposed increasing the amount of the town’s Capital Fund from $133,000 to $150,000. He said the new amount would “make up for increases in costs” of items such as highway vehicles, heavy equipment, fire engines, and computers. The rest of the board agreed, and unanimously passed this amount.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #341 (Wednesday, January 27, 2016). This story appeared on page C1.

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