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VERNON — After annual Town Meeting, Vernon Free Library Director Kristine Berberian is ready to call it quits.

Select Board Chairman Josh Unruh said the Select Board proposed a $70,000 budget for the library. The library had petitioned for an additional $39,000, to bring it up to an amount that would be level-funded from last year minus 6 percent.

Berberian said the Select Board had asked the library to cut 6 percent from the previous budget but then the board came up with the $70,000 proposal that was approved by voters at Town Meeting last week.

"My feeling was their intent was to cut our wages but the town attorney said that wasn't the motion that was made — the motion was just to drop the bottom line to $70,000," she said. "So as it turns out, it looks like I will be leaving as of June 30."

By doing so, Berberian said, the children's librarian and one of the two assistants can stay. She still has to present the plan to the board of library trustees.

Berberian has served as the library director in Vernon for 10 years. Previously, she did the same work in Whitingham, where she lives.

"I honestly feel bad for the people in the town," Berberian said. "We just didn't have enough library users or library lovers at Town Meeting. It was filled with people who came out to hear about the junk ordinance. That's why the majority of the people came. Everything we tried to do, well, we got shot down."

An article to establish a junk ordinance, which would have regulated the outside storage of junk and junk vehicles, failed at Town Meeting.

The library wasn't alone in feeling the loss in revenue due to the shutdown of nuclear power plant Vermont Yankee.

"We just continue to try and compare what we're doing to surrounding towns and make budget cuts based on that but we're trying to keep the level of service in Vernon as good as possible," Unruh said. "Obviously, we have facilities and buildings that no other town has that have to be maintained."

The town and plant owner Entergy had come to a tax agreement to ease the burden of the loss of revenue. But residents are still looking at ways to minimize the impact.

"It's a huge loss of revenue and we built infrastructure based in Vernon on having a huge amount of revenue," Unruh said. "Now we have to deal with it or let the infrastructure fall apart."

He pointed to the town offices as one of the "biggest and nicest" for a town of Vernon's size and called attention to the quality of the town's Recreation Department facility.

Hours of the Recreation Department will not be affected by budget cuts, said Unruh, chairman of the department.

"We cut some programs that weren't self sustaining," he said. "There's some fun things the Rec Department has done for years and years that are free, and we can't do this anymore. We need to be as self sustaining as humanly possible."

Town Meeting saw the elimination of a full-time maintenance position at town offices. Subcontractors will be hired for the job. That was a tough decision, Unruh said, "because it's somebody's job, somebody's livelihood."

The seven nonprofits, which petitioned to be on the warning, were not funded. The total amount requested was $19,100.

Voters also decided not to appropriate $40,000 for the James Cusick Scholarship. Unruh said there is still money left in the fund to help Vernon kids with college expenses in upcoming years.

"People in Vernon saw their taxes go up anywhere from $600 to $1,000 in one year and we're going to see it again even with all the budget cuts made because the revenue of the town keeps slipping away," he said.

The town still gets bigger tax payments via TransCanada and for the VELCO switchyard. And money will continue to come in for the power plant, although much less than in previous years.

At one point, Unruh said, Vernon was the most affordable town to move into in Windham County.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.

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