VERNON — With no debate, Vernon voters passed a municipal budget of nearly $1,962,032 with $1.6 million of that to be raised from taxes. The remainder is expected to be raised through revenues received by the town and nearly $37,000 carried over from the current fiscal year, which ends June 1.
The approved budget was a $68,000 increase over last year’s budget of $1,894,285.
Most of the discussion during Sunday’s annual Town Meeting revolved around solid waste disposal and the town’s pay-as-you-throw program.
Article 13 asked voters to appropriate $108,000 for municipal refuse and town-wide recycling. The total does not include funds for state-mandated composting, for which each homeowner is responsible.
“This is a law that was passed up in Montpelier,” said Chris Parker, chairman of the Vernon Select Board. The state did not provide any funding for the mandate, he said. “They say we have to do these things and they don’t even meet us halfway.”
Some people are contracting with Circle of Life, a Brookline company that charges $20 for pickups every two weeks or $32 for once a month. Other people are turning to backyard composting, said Parker, while others are bringing their food scraps to Windham Solid Waste Management District on Ferry Road in Brattleboro.
Voters approved another $14,518 for Windham Solid Waste, which hosts hazardous materials disposal days across the county that are available to any Vernon resident.
Jean Carr, a member of the Select Board, said the solid waste district also helps towns with educational materials and provides resources to towns that are considering programs such as Vernon’s pay-as-you-throw progam.
Article 15 asked town voters if they wanted to continue the town’s pay-as-you-throw program.
Parker said he did not support continuing the program, as did several voters who stood up to speak on the article.
“It seems like every year, when this comes around, we always have to raise money to make the difference of what we don’t collect from pay-as-you-throw,” said George Pond, who recommended the town go back to just paying for curbside collection.
But Carr said the state has mandated that town taxes can not be used to pay for curbside trash pickup unless it has a pay-as-you-throw program. She said the program “had a little bit of a rough start,” with having to pay for the bags in advance.
The bags cost 5 cents each, for which the town charges $5.
Eventually, said Carr, the cost of the bags should cover the cost of the program.
But Town Treasurer Cindy Turnley noted the program is still operating a deficit.
Dan Rosinski, who said he was “kind of” on the solid waste disposal committee, noted that perhaps that’s because Vernon residents have been so good at recycling and don’t need to purchase as many bags for their disposable trash.
Currently, said Town Clerk Tim Arsenault, the town has 25 to 30 boxes of small bag roles, with 50 rolls in each box, and about 50 boxes of large bags.
Jessica Freeman, with a baby on her hip, said she was in favor of the program.
“I have had at least one kind in diapers for the past six years,” she said. Having to haul all those diapers to Windham Solid Waste was “not super desirable.”
“Having a town-wide pay-as-you-throw system is better than each household having to figure out a way to dispose of their trash,” said Freeman.
She asked voters to also think about senior citizens and young families who may not have the ability to arrange for trash disposal.
In a town that is encouraging its young people to stay or asking young families to move in, said Norma Manning, who was in favor of keeping the program, “It behooves us to not to do anything that further burdens young people.”
Other articles passed included $91,000 for the Vernon Free Library, and nearly $161,000 for the capital plan, of which only $37,000 needs to be raised from taxes.
Another $25,000 was raised to be added to the professional services fund, which is mostly used for legal fees. At the time of the vote, the fund had $212,800 in it.
Other yes votes included $10,000 for the emergency repair and replacement fund and $100,000 for the town road upgrading fund, which, at the time of the vote, had nearly $260,000 in it. Last year, $162,000 was used out of the fund to maintain the town roads.
David Walker, highway foreman, said if the town gets 80 percent of the cost from the state, Tyler Hill Road will be repaired. If the grant is not received, the town will work on Stebbins Road instead, he said.
Voters also approved $40,000 for the culvert fund, $2,500 to maintain town parking lots and $10,000 for the elderly assistance fund. Another $1,100 was approved for use by the Vernon historians for records preservation, retention and promotion of history educational initiatives and insurance coverage.
However, when it came time to approve $3,250 for Visiting Nurses and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, $2,100 for Southeast Vermont Community Action and $1,850 for Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, voters balked.
“These are all worthy charities,” said Board member Jeff Dunklee, “but I’ve never felt comfortable taking taxpayer money and determining which charities I wish to support.”
Faith Jobin agreed, saying people should donate from their own funds and not be required to donate via taxes.
Vernon voters approved $15,000 for the town’s emergency management office and amended down the request for $20,000 for the town’s farmland protection fund to $9,354, to bring the total in the fund up to $250,000. Another $6,618 was approved to support Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies.