Wilmington voters approve $3.5 million for town and highway budgets

Baker Willard, of Wilmington, brings up a question about the town's $60,000 deficit and a proposed tax increase during the Wilmington Town Meeting at the Twin Valley Elementary School on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

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WILMINGTON — Voters at Annual Town Meeting could choose to do away with the tradition.

“[A]n article will be presented requesting that all articles utilize Australian balloting in the future so that participation via voting is more representative,” the Select Board said in the Town Report.

Voters will be asked whether to adopt all budget articles and public questions by ballot. Town Manager Scott Tucker said the questions were posed by members of the Select Board in light of two years of voting by ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling numbers of people attending Town Meeting prior to the public health emergency.

In a letter to the editor, former board member Meg Streeter noted the annual Town Meeting is returning Tuesday to in-person voting from the floor.

“Town Meetings originated in early New England towns when people gathered to discuss and decide upon all matters that impacted their community,” she wrote. “That simple description doesn’t adequately outline the unusual opportunity that Town Meeting offers voters to come together and hear the Select Board explain the proposed budget and numerous articles (32!) about budget and other issues.”

Streeter voiced hope that voters will attend and stay through all the articles, as the last two propose eliminating Town Meeting in favor of voting by ballot.

“Personally,” she wrote, “I value in-person accountability from our Select Board and will be voting against those articles.”

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At previous annual town meetings, Wilmington officials and residents have discussed the issue. Some have pointed out only a fraction of the voters attend the meeting portion due to work and other commitments.

“It begs the question of inclusivity,” Tucker said. “If I have the numbers right, there are about 1,600 registered voters versus 65 plus or minus voters in attendance at Town Meeting.”

In the Town Report, the board also noted another article will ask voters to eliminate the listers’ office and replace it with an assessor.

According to vermont.gov, a lister is an official elected by the citizens of a municipality in which the lister resides. An assessor is hired or appointed by a municipality.

Listers successfully asked voters last year to reduce the Board of Listers to three members.

“This Town Meeting the voters will be asked to vote to eliminate the Board of Listers totally,” the listers wrote in the Town Report. “The Board will be replaced by a certified assessor who will perform the same duties as the board. The work that is entailed has increased over the years and has become more difficult for an elected position. The assessor will also have an assistant to help with the task.”

The proposed fiscal year 2024 budget totals about $6.1 million, about $10,000 more than last year.