DOVER — Officials and residents are getting ready to meet in person to decide how to pay for things in town.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a really good Town Meeting next week,” Town Moderator Rich Werner said at an informational meeting Tuesday. “Hopefully, it will be another nice day.”
Annual Town Meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Carinthia Base Lodge at Mount Snow in West Dover. This marks the second year in a row that Dover delayed the annual meeting and will be hosting it in the roomy and well-ventilated lodge because of COVID-19.
To make things fun, Werner again plans to get a hold of some local products to give away as prizes for trivia on town history.
Proposed are annual stipends of $3,000 for the Select Board chairperson, $2,500 for other Select Board members and $5,000 for the town treasurer. Under the same article, the town clerk’s salary is recommended to total about $70,040, and town auditors would get $18.48 an hour.
“This is a $500 increase across the board for all Select Board members, whether you’re a member or a chair,” Board Chairwoman Victoria Capitani said, noting it has been nine years since the board received a raise.
Because of increases in the cost of living, all employees will be getting an additional 80 cents an hour and a 3 percent increase in pay.
“The board felt strongly that everybody should get raises equally, but this really affects the lower-wage-scale employees,” Capitani said. “They get a bigger raise because of the 80 cents.”
All told, employee raises are estimated to vary from between 5 and 7 percent.
According to minutes from the Dec. 16 Select Board meeting, board member Joe Mahon presented the idea as a way to benefit employees who are paid hourly and with salaries. The proposal is meant to “treat everyone equally, [and] make [Dover] a good place to work and be well compensated,” the minutes state.
If all the articles are approved, the total budget increase will stand at about 5 percent over the current fiscal year. Operational expenses are proposed to total about $2,289,522.
An increase in the budget covers digitizing zoning records, Zoning Administrator Tabi Freedman said.
Highway expenses are proposed to total about $1,535,719. That represents an approximately 2 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
“My biggest concern with this budget is fuel,” Capitani said. “We’re up on fuel year to date. I’m concerned that if this doesn’t stop, it’s not going to be pretty, because who knows when fuel is going to go down.”
Werner, who sells gas in town, noted how fuel prices are constantly fluctuating.
“How you budget for that, I have no clue,” he said.
Randy Capitani, publisher of the Deerfield Valley News and Capitani’s husband, wondered if voters should increase the highway budget from the floor to offer flexibility. High fuel costs are affecting not just vehicles but heating oil for buildings, Capitani said.
“We didn’t envision things going this crazy when we passed the budget on,” she added. “We have money in reserves, so it’s not like we’re going into debt.”
Treasurer Marco Tallini said he hopes the town will have a healthy surplus like last year, so the money can help offset increases in fuel prices.
Another article asks voters to raise $600,000 for the Capital Paving Fund. Capitani said costs for paving have gone up this year. She credited Road Commissioner Travis Briggs with securing a $200,000 grant from the state to help with paving this year.
Other articles to be considered would provide $500,000 for the Capital Equipment Fund, $80,000 for the Capital Building Improvement Fund, $217,139 for the Dover Free Library, $25,000 for Support and Services at Home, $3,000 for The Gathering Place, $30,000 for Deerfield Valley Rescue, $3,372 for Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies and $500 for Southern Vermont Therapeutic Riding Center.