One Out, One Up, One Re-Open
8/17/21 Selectboard Meeting Rundown
by Ken Signorello & Irene Wrenner
August 18, 2021
After receiving Vince Franco’s resignation, the Selectboard decided by consensus to advertise for candidates during the next four weeks. They intend to hold a special meeting in late September / early October to interview candidates and appoint one to this open seat. That one-year unexpired seat would be up for election in March 2022.
Unified Manager Evan Teich announced the removal of “Interim” from Owiso Makuku’s title after numerous requests from the public over several months to do so. She is now the Community Development Director for the Town of Essex.
Finance Director Sarah Macy has begun the FYE23 Budget process two months early, even though the outcome of the Separation vote in November will change the budget-landscape significantly. She asked the SB for their budget goals.
Selectboard Member Pat Murray would like to see more funding for anti-discrimination efforts and climate change mitigation.
Selectboard Member Dawn Hill-Fleury would like to see preparation for potential Separation.
Selectboard Member Tracey Delphia would like to see funds target climate change and soften the impact of a potential Separation also.
Selectboard Member Andy Watts said that consolidating budgets now would decrease the cost of Separation, if it passes, or improves the balance of taxation if it doesn’t.
Watts is also eager to see a canoe access to the Winooski River, given that it forms our town’s entire southern boundary.
The Unified Manager explained his recent proposal to have the Town fund the Village Fire Department via the same process currently used for the Village Public Works Department.
With that arrangement, which was codified in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Village Trustees and voters deterimine the Public Works department budget. So long as its increase is below 6%, the Town has agreed to include it in the Town budget. That amount is paid by the Town to the Village each year.
For FY 22 that transfer was projected to be $1,469,180.
Teich explained that while the Town pays the Village Public Works budget entirely, it does not control its operation or expenditures.
The joint boards’ intention was to fully consolidate the Town and Village Public Works departments, a process which has been underway for approximately seven years, since the signing of that MOU between the SB and Village Trustees.
To include the Fire Departments in such an arrangement may require its own MOU. That might prove difficult in the current political environment. The Fire Departments are currently separate with no plan to consolidate.
To illustrate the complexity of these financial arrangements, Joe Percy, a TOV resident, asked why the Village and Town split the cost of the Unified Manager’s salary 50/50, but the Town covers 100% of the cost of his benefits.
Teich explained that this arrangement was made before his tenure. It follows the logic that Town-inside-the-Village (TIV) taxpayers and Village taxpayers, because they are the same people belonging to separate municipalities (the Town and the Village), end up paying more than 50% (42% of the Town half, and 100% of the Village half) of his salary. He suggested the Town picking up the cost of his benefits makes up for that.
Actually, because TIV / Village residents are citizens of two municipalities, they get two managers (Town AND Village) for their money, while TOV residents get just one.
Several SB members informed the public that much discussion is happening in executive sessions regarding the sharing of Police Services. They want any proposal to be precise, as it must be included in a future City budget and decisions may rest on it.
The Senior Center at Lincoln Hall is scheduled to re-open Friday, September 3rd.