DUMMERSTON - With wit, grace and unusual civility, Tuesday morning Dummerston Town Meeting members approved a combined municipal and highway budget of $1,029,475, of which $722,320 will be raised from taxes - up 10 percent from last year. In the afternoon, they approved a school budget of $3,198,445 - up 1.72 percent - of which $3,183,194 will be raised from taxes.
The percentage rise in the municipal budget is a result of increased costs - for example a 14-percent rise in health insurance - plus lower revenue, said Selectboard Vice-chairman Ezekiel Goodband.
On the school side, the state had asked the town school boards to hold any budget raises to a maximum of 3 percent, so Dummerston did very well, said School Board Chairwoman Amy Wall. Wall was awarded by the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union with a plaque for nine years of exceptional school board service.
Wall is not leaving the school board, but Tom Bodett is leaving the Selectboard, so he received a gift and a standing ovation for his service to the town. Teased by the other Selectboard members because of his deep involvement over the years in solving the town's gravel issues, Bodett said, " I'll be going through withdrawal, so If gravel crosses your mind, give me a call."
Article 5 of the Town's portion of the warning came closest to being the most controversial, with people speaking both for and against the highway department buying itself a tractor/blower/mower for $55,000 instead of contracting the jobs out, as it has been doing. Even the Selectboard said they were unsure about its decision to buy the machine. The pro and con discussion ended after about 40 minutes when Roget Turner said, "The Selectboard has put a lot of time into talking about this and they made this recommendation. Then it seems, at the last minute, we come in and start questioning. I want to trust the Selectboard."
Article 5, which also included a new, $25,000 heating system for the town garage, then passed.
At about 10:45 a.m., Gov. Peter Shumlin visited, walking down the aisle shaking hands like President Obama coming onto the House floor to give his State of the Union speech. Shumlin thanked Dummerston for giving him the votes to put him over the top in his first winning gubernatorial race. He even knew the number of votes - 504, he said. He gave a short version of his State of the State speech, emphasizing his education initiatives, and answered questions about Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, health care and gun control by recognizing people - by name - from the floor. He is the first governor in about 50 years to come from Windham County, he said, and he certainly appeared at home.
Town Meeting also heard from its three Montpelier representatives.
Rep. David Deen congratulated Winifred Vogt on winning a 2012 Successful Aging Award from Senior Solutions (formerly the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont.) She received a standing ovation.
Rep. Mike Mrowicki talked about the problem of prescription drug addiction; he said that Vermont sees one overdose death a week from people using these drugs recreationally. He also asked that people register as organ and tissue donors.
Vermont Senator Jeanette White, who is now serving her sixth term, talked about the controversial death with dignity legislation.
In other matters, as safety measures, the school board asked for money to add a swipe-card buzzer system and a new kindergarten door to secure the school building in response to the shootings in Connecticut. And the town voted to spend $3,000 to paint white fog lines on the town's paved roads every other year.
Richard Epstein asked if the Selectboard had ever considered removing the pavement from some of the roads and turning them back into dirt.
"Only if you're thinking of turning your car in for a horse," Goodband said.