Weston board ponders rising number of funding requests on ballot

Board Chair Denis Benson is suggesting taking out of town services off the warning and letting them solicit for private donations. All photos by Bruce Frauman

By Bruce Frauman
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Weston Select Board chair Denis Benson on Jan. 23, set off a long discussion when he proposed adding an article to this year’s Town Meeting warning that, starting next year, would remove organizations that are not based in Weston  from the appropriations list on the warning.

Instead, he suggested that they would be given a list of taxpayers for them to solicit individually.

Benson expressed concern about the rising cost of appropriations to towns taxpayers.

Board member Ann Fuji’i repeatedly asked for clarification about which groups would remain on the warning and which would be removed. Benson did have an answer, saying he is “not good with words.”

However, The Telegraph asked Will Senning, director of Elections and Campaign Finance with the Secretary of State’s Office, about the legality of such an action. He replied on Tuesday, “Under the law, if a valid and timely petition containing the requisite number of signatures is filed requesting an appropriation to a social service agency, it must be included on the Warning regardless of the physical location of the agency.”

For the 2017 warning, six Weston organizations — from the Weston Volunteer Fire Department ($26,225) to Cold Spring Park ($5,000) — received a total of $78,635, while 12 organizations outside Weston — from Londonderry Rescue Squad and Neighborhood Connections ($3,000 each) to Vermont Green-Up ($50) — received a total of $15,090.

Fuji’i also said that each organization does serve the town in one way or another, even if they aren’t located within the town boundaries. Town Clerk Kim Seymour said that three or four new organizations seek funding each year. She volunteered to write out the requirements for new organizations who ask for funding.

“Under the law, if a valid and timely petition containing the requisite number of signatures is filed requesting an appropriation to a social service agency, it must be included on the Warning regardless of the physical location of the agency.”

Will Senning
Director of Elections and Campaign Finance

Board member Annie Fuji’i questions removing services to residents from the warning on the basis of them not being located in Weston.

The board passed board member Jim Linville’s motion that the Select Board ask the residents at this year’s Town Meeting how the voting for appropriations may be made more democratic by using Australian ballot.

Resident Donald Hart said this would allow working people to be able to vote.

Linville said “this will not be a simple job. We want to avoid unintended consequences” of defunding organizations the board believes in.

Click here for the appropriations list for 2016-2018.

Benson said the total appropriations request are approaching $100,000, which is about 8 percent of the budget. This year, based on the draft warning, the amount requested from Weston based organizations such as park associations, the cemetery commission, the recreation club, the fire department, and the library totals $80,355. Other organizations such as GNAT-TV, Flood Brook Athletic Association, the Collaborative, Visiting Nurses and the Council on Aging total $12,090.

The requests have been going down since 2016, when voters approved appropriations of $106,755. In 2017, the total was $93,725.

Seymour said that a total budget for the town must be voted on at Town Meeting, that would include the appropriations. She will look into the legality of voting by Australian ballot on the appropriations.

Painting contract awarded for Annex building

Board member Jim Linville is working on updating the town parking ordinance.

The Weston School Board awarded a painting contract to AMI of Ludlow to prepare, prime and paint the front and westside the Annex, housing the Little School. AMI submitted the only bid of $20,600, though Town Administrator Cheryl Barker said several painting contractors were asked to bid.

Fuji’i asked if it were possible to remove the 2nd town constable from the ballot since the position mostly involves animal control and the board already appoints an animal control officer. Barker will find out if this position is required by Vermont state law.

Linville “took a crack” at rewriting the winter parking ordinance to give the Road Foreman authority to have a vehicle towed if the owner refuses to move it after being requested to do so.  Linville said he would look for state citations to include in the ordinance.

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