Cavendish passes $1.95 million budget; discusses ARPA fund use

ARPA board member Betty McEnaney speaks to the Cavendish crowd on Monday night. <small>All photos by Cara Philbin.

ARPA board member Betty McEnaney speaks to the Cavendish crowd on Monday night. All photos by Cara Philbin.

By Cara Philbin
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Monday night’s Cavendish Town Meeting attracted about 50 residents to the Cavendish Town Elementary School and 15 on Zoom, mostly to discuss the proposed budget, which was among items to be voted on by Australian ballot on Tuesday, and uses of funding received from the federal pandemic American Rescue Plan Act.

Article 3, the town’s $1,950,585 proposed budget — which is $187,768 (or 10.65 percent) higher than last year — covers everything from road and bridge repair, to capital equipment and emergency services, including $78,600 for the Ludlow Ambulance Service. The ambulance allocation is 7.5 percent more than last year’s and a 67 percent jump from the prior year.

The proposed allocation of $25,000 for the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department was also higher than the FY 2022-2023 allocation ($18,400) but 32 percent less than what the town actually paid for sheriff services last year and less than the $70,000 requested by new Sheriff Ryan Palmer. When resident Tim O’Donohue asked about the amount, Town Manager Brendan McNamara clarified that the $25,000 is a placeholder until the contract expires June 30 and the Select Board is ready to consider increasing Palmer’s contract.

The budget also accounts for the salaries of town officials. Resident Roxie Davis asked about a $9,960 raise for the town manager, which Select Board members said is a routine increase to account for a higher cost of living. Davis also asked about higher allocations for road maintenance, which McNamara attributed to mud season repairs.

“Last year, we had trucks spinning nonstop to keep the roads passable,” McNamara said.

Cavendish approves budget with 11 percent hike

On Tuesday, voters approved Article 3 — 146 to 23 — which included allocations of:

  • $1,000 for Black River Good Neighbor Services,
  • $850 for Okemo Valley TV,
  • $600 for Southeast Vermont Community Action (SEVCA),
  • $500 for the American Red Cross,
  • $250 for Women’s Freedom Center,
  • $600 Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services,
  • $200 for Green Mountain RSVP,
  • $200 for Windsor County Mentors, and
  • $100 for Vermont Family Network.

It increased the budgets for Windsor County Youth Services by 25 percent and Senior Solutions VT by 443 percent, and continued with the 25 percent budget cut for the Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice of the Southwest Region of Vermont from last year. It also entirely eliminated funding for the Black River Senior Center, the Vermont Center for Independent Living and the Vermont Bar Association.

READ ABOUT the other Cavendish votes by clicking here.

The second half of Monday’s meeting pivoted to discussions on how to use the $421,631 the town received in ARPA funds.

Matt Seaton requested that part of the funds be used to weatherize the Cavendish Fire Department. And Neil Snyder suggested that the funds be used to repair bridges, culverts and roads.

Whatever the town finally decides, the funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026. A committee that is tasked with receiving input on best uses of the money is made up of Select Board member George Timko, who chairs the ARPA panel, Select Board member Stephen Plunkard,Wendy Regier, who is vice chair, Energy Committee member Peter LaBelle, town bookkeeper Jen Leak, Betty McEnaney and Julia Gignoux. The town manager also serves as a non-voting member of the ARPA committee, which meets monthly.

Federal guidance allows small town recipients to elect a “standard allowance” and to allocate the award toward any service(s) traditionally provided by a government, but does not allow the town to use the funds for lowering taxes by adding it as income to the budget or paying on existing debt.

Gignoux presented a related questionnaire that residents may complete and return to the committee by April 15. Questionnaires are available at the Town Office, the Cavendish Fletcher Community Library and on the town’s website.

On Tuesday, Cavendish voters hit the polls to choose three members for the Select Board and three Town Auditors, along with the Town Moderator, Town Clerk, Town Grand Juror, Library Trustee, Trustee of Public Funds, GMUSD Director, Town Treasurer, and Town Agent.


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