March 6, 2021

Draft Budget Discussion/Candidates Night Minutes 2-22-2021


TOWN OF HARTFORD

School and Town Budget Discussion - Candidates Night 

Monday, February 22, 2021, 7PM 

Meeting Minutes

 

This meeting was conducted in compliance with Vermont Open Meeting Law 

with electronic participation,

https://zoom.us/j/99397577389,  

Youtube.com/catv810 – click “live now”,

by phone (415) 762-9988, room ID: 993-9757-7389,

or on Comcast channel 1085. 

 

School Board Members: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North, Michelle Boleski

Administrators: Tom DeBalsi

Select Board Members: Dan Fraser, Simon Dennis, Kim Sousa, Rachel Edens, Joe Major, Emma Behrens

Administrators: Tracy Yarlott-Davis, Gail Ostrout

 

Call to Order & Ground Rules Review
Chuck Wooster, Town Moderator, opened the meeting at 7:00 PM. He welcomed attendees, currently more than 100. He thanked the town staff and the CATV videographer. He reminded the group that voting will take place next Tuesday, March 2, 2021. He gave directions for in-person, absentee, and voting outside of the gymnasium. On Saturday, February 27, 2021 the school and town meetings will take place via zoom. Both boards will receive reports and take up any non-binding issues. Tonight both budgets will be presented with questions/answers to follow. Candidates will have the opportunity to address the public with a question/answers to follow. He gave directions for the public to ask questions. 

 

Town Budget
 Chuck Wooster introduced and welcomed Tracy Yarlott-Davis, new Town Manager, who presented the town budget information. She thanked the Department Heads and staff who crafted the budget. The General Fund budget of $17,640,521 reflects a non-tax revenue of $2,593,293 (projected to be reduced by 4.64%). The tax rate increase for FY2022 of 1.0321 is a 1.83 cent increase. Tracy reviewed the unassigned funds, $608,120. The Local Option tax includes the expenses for the four town cemeteries, a lease payment for the VHF simulcast radio system and the climate action reserve fund. Other highlights are: the average adjustment for staff is a 3% average increase, healthcare costs 1.64% decrease, 15.6% decrease in worker’s comp. She highlighted other areas included in the budget: funding a wellness coordinator, fire station #2, website refreshers, Maxfield lighting, IT upgrades, curbside recycling, parks and rec lease payments for van and zamboni.

Chuck opened the public question period. Several people asked questions about the presentation and budget. Gail Ostrout, Finance Director, answered most financial questions with Tracy Yarlott-Davis answering some general questions.

Chuck announced at 7:34 PM there were more than 150 attendees. He reminded the group how to get in the lineup for questions.

 

School Budget
Superintendent Tom DeBalsi introduced board member, Russell North, who presented the school budget information.  The school budget of $40,966,683 represents a per pupil spending of $17,294.88. The actual school tax rate is a decrease of 4.1%.  The school board decided to use money from the reserves to offset the taxes to be raised. He shared significant increases/(decreases): health insurance negotiated by the state, teachers’ retirement fund-mandated by the state, (repairs). Russell gave an explanation of terms used by the district and state in determining the taxes. Only 30% of Hartford residents pay the full amount, 70% get some sort of tax adjustment based on household income. He gave income examples showing how the educational taxes would be impacted. He shared a link on the Vermont Department of Taxes where residents can put in their personal information to calculate their potential taxes.

Chuck opened the public question period. Tom DeBalsi answered questions about the programs included in the budget, a new equity coordinator, and work to maintain the current programs. He highlighted COVID expenses and government funding grants. He further highlighted monitoring of the emotional wellbeing of the students, Panorama K-12 student survey. The data shows what needs there are, engagement is an area of need. He offered the results to any community member. 

 

Candidate presentations
Chuck reminded the audience how to get into Zoom to ask a question. Each candidate was given up to four minutes to address the public. Questions will be held for later in the meeting. He urged candidates to include contact information. He later posted contact information in the comment section of the screen.

2 year school board seat: Havah Armstrong Walther

3 year school board seat: Russell North

Town/School District Moderator: Chuck Wooster

4 of 5 year term West Hartford Library: Emily Clough, Gayle Ottmann

1 of 5 year term West Hartford Library: Douglas Eisler

2 year selectboard seat: Jeff Arnold, Lannie Collins, Rachel Edens

3 year selectboard seat: Dan Fraser, Sandra Mariotti, Remington Nevin

2 of 3 year term selectboard seat: Julia Dalphin, Tony Gove, Michael Hoyt

1 of 3 year term selectboard seat: Jeff Arnold, Dennis Brown, John Hall, 

                                              Wayne Kendall, Brett Mayfield, Ally Tufenkjian

At 8:18 there were more than 150 attendees.

At 9:32 there were 135 attendees.

 

Question and Answer Period 
Chuck opened the question/answer period at 9:32 PM. He gave a review of the ground rules, noting that when two thirds of attendees have left the meeting he would call for adjournment. 

Several residents asked questions of the candidates. Chuck offered opponents a chance to respond. 

At 10:06 there were 87 attendees.

At 10:30 there were 70 attendees.

At 10:41 there were 60 attendees.

At 11:00 there were over 65 people (panelists and attendees) on the call.

 

Close Meeting 
Chuck closed the meeting at 11:00 PM. He thanked all participants and reminded the group that the school and town meetings would be Saturday at 10AM. Panelists thanked Chuck for moderating the meeting.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey

Hartford School Board Recorder