Thursday March 7, 2013

VERNON -- There's not much time for celebration for a new town clerk.

Susan Miller learned that lesson Wednesday as she walked into Vernon's office as the town's first new clerk in 23 years. Miller took her oath Tuesday night after easily winning a three-way race for the position.

"I am very excited, and I'm really proud," Miller said.

The clerk's race was set up by the retirement of Sandy Harris, who did not seek another term in the office she had held since 1990.

In Australian Ballot voting on Tuesday, Miller garnered 246 votes. Coming in second was Marylynn Scherlin with 103 votes, followed by Matthew Coombs with 81.

While the job title is new for Miller, the office is not: She served as an assistant town clerk for 11 years under Harris.

"I feel very fortunate. I know the resources, and I know the ropes," Miller said. "I'm very lucky. Sandy taught me a lot."

Miller had pledged to make the town office "user-friendly," and she said she may spend some time rearranging. She also wants to continue important work such as Harris' digitization of the town's land records.

"There are some big projects that I want to keep going," Miller said.

Another contested race in Vernon featured two candidates for one Selectboard seat. Janet Rasmussen won the two-year term with 218 votes compared with 177 for Josh Unruh.

Rasmussen is a former equity analyst who has been serving on Vernon's finance committee. She said she's eager to start work as a Selectboard member.

"In the last couple of weeks, I've learned a lot," Rasmussen said.

"This is a really good board," she added. "There's a lot of experience on the board from different parts of town and on different issues."

Other Vernon election news included:

-- Patty O'Donnell, who has been serving as Selectboard chairwoman, was the sole candidate for a three-year seat on the board and received 340 votes.

-- In the only other contested race, Scherlin was re-elected as delinquent tax collector, receiving 238 votes compared with 169 votes cast for challenger Cindy Turnley.

-- Nancy Gassett was elected auditor via write-in. There had been no listed candidates for the position.

-- The town school budget was approved in two Australian Ballot votes: The first vote was soundly in favor of the budget at 267-170, while the second tally was much closer at 228-204.

Two votes were required on the fiscal 2014 school budget because two state criteria were met: First, the current year's spending per equalized pupil in Vernon exceeds the state average.

Also, overall spending in the fiscal 2014 budget "exceeds the current year's spending, adjusted by an inflation index, plus 1 percent."

That meant that voters on Tuesday first encountered an article asking for authorization of nearly $4.2 million for the school. Next came "part B," which requested another $95,212 for school expenses.

Officials had worried that the complex state formula would be difficult for voters to understand. And they maintained that the spending plan, which is up 4.8 percent over the current year's budget, was as lean as possible.

Board members had authorized a new teaching position for fiscal 2014 due to steadily growing enrollment. But they said other expenses -- including an anticipated 12 percent to 14 percent increase in health-care costs -- were out of their control.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.