Andover board sends $1.066M budget to voters

From left, Robin Trask, Melissa Gates-Perry, Susan Leader, Richard Griswold and Chris Plumb look over the budget proposal prior to passing it. <small>Screen shot from Zoom</small>

From left, Robin Trask, Melissa Gates-Perry, Susan Leader, Richard Griswold and Chris Plumb look over the budget proposal prior to passing it. Screen shot from Zoom

By Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

As expected, the Andover Select Board on Monday night signed off on the town’s first $1.066 million spending plan with nary a complaint or dissent.

Referring to the 2023-24 budget proposal, board member Robin Trask said, “There’s nothing frivolous here.  It’s all about the trucks and the gas and the fire and rescue.”

Melissa Gates-Perry agreed, saying “You can look at the numbers and see the percentage” of cost that items rose by. “Everything that the town needs,” she said, “is more expensive.”

Members even easily accepted the fact that the contract for fire and ambulance services from Chester was going up almost $20,000 — to $75,600. “Fire and rescue is certainly worth it,” said Gates-Perry, with Richard Griswold adding that the townspeople spoke in favor of it. Trask added, “It hadn’t been raised in years.” Board chair Chris Plumb said, “And they didn’t have a formula before” that would justify the cost of the services.

You can look at the summary budget by clicking here. Andover residents will have the chance to vote on the budget at Town Meeting in early March.

The board also voted to hire CAI Technologies of New Hampshire to create tax maps for the town, using American Rescue Plan funds to pay for it.  Last week, the board OK’d a $45,000 contract with the New England Municipal Resource Center for a data quality study and a possible statistical reappraisal of town properties.

The board also signed the Town Meeting warning, but not before discussing the importance to the history of the town of residents voting from the floor, its traditional way of voting.

During the first two years of Covid, the state allowed all towns that voted from the floor to use Australian ballots and to delay their Town Meeting Day if that was appropriate. This year, the state legislature approved an extension on those allowances, but as of Tuesday night, Gov. Phil Scott had not signed the bill.

Town Clerk and Town Treasurer Jeanette Haight reminded the board that during a hybrid Town Meeting — one held both in person and on Zoom — votes cannot be taken from Zoomers. However, the suggestion was made that if a person were to sit in the parking lot and Zoom on their laptop or phone, they could come to the window and vote. Haight also said, “The good thing is that those people who are homebound can at least make their opinion heard, even if they cannot vote.”

Several items have been voted on using paper ballots, and that will continue to be the case, including the school budgets and local school board seats. Also this year, paper ballots will including a proposal for changing the job of lister from an elected office to one appointed by the Select Board. Town listers have been responsible for assessing improvements to properties and defending the grand list for taxing. That position has grown in complexity and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns is suggesting that to avoid electing inexperienced people, it would be better for select boards to vet the position.

The board had the option of putting the change in lister status on the warning or not.

While no board members indicated whether they intended to seek re-election, Haight said she would be seeking re-election to her positions.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Raymond Makul says:

    Andover residents would be better served by using available Federal funds to form a fire department or form a fire district with another town. The absence of any fire equipment stationed in the town leaves many properties 13-15 miles from our assigned fire house. The property insurance industry, in evaluating fire risk, includes as a major factor the distance to the assigned fire house. The fact that closer fire houses may assist by mutual aid is not taken into account. The present arrangement with Chester leaves many Andover properties so far from its primary fire house, the insurance companies consider the risk factor to be as great as having no fire house at all. And property owners pay for this lack of a nearby assigned primary assigned fire house by paying insurance rates far higher than necessary. It is undemocratic to have $70,000 of our taxpayer money going to another town without our input on how that money is spent or how our residents are served.