Special to the Reformer
GUILFORD >> March came in like a howling lion and that meant that Guilford voters had to spend the first 35 minutes of this year's Town Meeting without heat or light. That did not stop moderator Rick Zamore from being heard as he used a battery-operated bull horn to conduct business.
When the power returned it was if the crowd of about 120 people had felt some sort of power surge as they sailed through school and town business in record time. It was the first time in most people's memory that the entire town meeting ended before lunch, adjourning at 12:40 p.m.
Voters quickly approved a school district expenditure of $3,086,456 by unanimous voice vote from the floor with little discussion. According to school board member Beth Bristol, this year's increase is 1.2 percent. The state cap for increase is 1.3 percent this year. Guilford's per pupil spending of $15,281 per equalized pupil is the lowest in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union district.
School business also included approval of $114,000 for the Major Repair Fund. According to school board member Steve Redmond, a recent energy audit of the school indicated that a number of systems were in need of work. The sum approved each year is limited by law and Guilford's amount is within the limit.
Another $28,000 was approved for the Bus Fund. Although it is twice as much as last year's amount, it was noted that last year's sum was half of the usual yearly request because efforts were made to try to make one bus last longer. There is now $41,000 in the fund.
Farm to School Coordinator Hanna Jenkins provided an update of the program at the Guilford Central School. She received resounding applause when she noted that the school kitchen is composting 100 percent of its waste. Next year all the beef served at the school will come from Guilford's Franklin Farm and will be organic.
As the school portion of the meeting concluded moderator Zamore, commenting on low school enrollment figures at 111 in Guilford and 114 at Brattleboro Union High School, spoke to the younger town residents saying, "The school needs more students, so young people, keep those babies coming."
In town business, voters gave their approval for a Highway Fund expenditure of $991, 290. That is $120,000 or about seven percent above last year's expenditure. Highway commissioner Dan Zumbruski noted that he has been cutting his budget for a number of years and that this year's budget reflects a need for upgraded road maintenance. Although two members of his crew will be retiring this year he plans to work on guardrails as well as overdue road maintenance.
The $789,072 requested for the town's General Fund was approved after a short discussion. That is an increase of $66,241 over last year. In anticipation of work to be done on the town highway garage and the Green River bridge, the Capital Fund was increased to $200,000. The town had to add $1500 to the Emergency Fund to help offset the loss of funding normally provided by Vermont Yankee.
Guilford Cares received $4200, a level funded request. The Windham Regional Commission membership expense of $3957 was approved and $30,000 for the Guilford Free Library was voted favorably without dissent. Library board member Richard Wizansky commented that the library has evolved into more of a community center. Head librarian Cathy Wilken explained that the town's library has joined the Catamount Library Network providing access to one quarter of a million volumes, a major increase from the 4,000 volumes currently housed in the library.
The Recreation Commission received $4,000 following a unanimous voice vote. The organization is working to realize the development process that identified and prioritized goals and an action plan based on worked started by the Vermont Council on Rural Development in 2013.
The sum of $13,080 was approved for 15 human service organizations as well as $6,300 for the Visiting Nurse and Hospice of VT/NH.
Surprisingly, the issue that drew the most discussion had to do with whether or not the town should continue to mail the annual report to the town's mailing list. The Selectboard felt that by only sending the report to those requesting it, the town could save some money. Other Vermont towns are considering such a change.
A number of people spoke for and against the measure. The final voice vote from the floor was the only vote of the day that was not unanimous, but it was a clear victory for those who want to continue to have the report mailed to all town residents.
Steve Redmond was given a certificate of appreciation for his three years of service on the Guilford School Board by WSESU superintendent Ron Stahley. Anne Rider, long time select board member, was honored for her many years of service to not only the town but also the school by a chorus of 12 who recited a poem written by Verandah Porche to honor Rider.
The following officers were elected by unanimous voice vote from the floor:
Trustees of Public Funds, Todd Mandell; Grand Jurors, Mert Garland, Don McLean; Library Trustee, Mimi Morton; Trustee of the Warren Wilder Fund, Evelyn McLean, David Franklin; Cemetery Commissioner, Alison McRae.
Richard Davis is a regular contributor to the Reformer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.