Rutland residents set to vote on school and city budgets
By STEPHANIE M. PETERS STAFF WRITER | February 27,2010
Rutland residents have a lot to consider before heading to the polls Tuesday.
For the first time, voters will cast the final decision on the municipal budget. They'll also choose among six candidates for five seats on the Board of Aldermen, review a $45 million school district budget, several bonding questions and three charter changes proposed by the citizen group Rutland Taxpayers United.
Topping the ballot, however, is the aldermen's race.
Incumbents David Allaire, Sharon Davis, William Notte and Christopher Robinson are running to retain their seats, but are also facing challenges from Edward Larson, a retired Rutland City Police Department corporal, and self-described "average taxpayer and family man" Daniel P. White Sr.
Voters will then find the four candidates for four seats on the city's School Board – Christopher Book, Hurley Cavacas, Jr., Collin Fingon and newcomer Erin Shimp – as well as each ward's candidates for four election official positions.
Next on the ballot are charter change proposals. Three of the four – charter articles No. 1, 3 and 4 – received their impetus from the Rutland Taxpayers United, which in past years led the effort to gain voters the right to vote on the municipal and school budgets.
"Every time we go out and we have to get those 600 or so signatures, people want to talk," said RTU member Dawn Hance, describing how their ideas for charter changes come about. "You listen to their concerns. It takes a long time to go house to house."
Article No. 1 calls for 10-year term limits for the mayor and members of the Board of Aldermen. The language of the amendment does grant that, if passed, at the time the mayor or any alderman who's in office but has already served more than 10 years will be able to serve out the remainder of their term. Currently, that would apply only to Allaire and Davis, 12- and 18-year veterans, respectively.
Article No. 2 asks for permission for the city to go outside of standard bidding procedures for goods and services in situations that are determined to be sole-source procurements.
Articles No. 3 and 4 ask if city and school officials should begin contributing a minimum of 20 percent to their health care premiums annually, a suggestion that has drawn a strong opposition response from the Coalition of Rutland City Public Employees, a joint effort of the city's employee unions.
School employees pay 10 percent of their health care premiums, while all city officials except for the police department pay anywhere between 4 percent and 7 percent of theirs; the police department doesn't pay toward its premiums at present.
The final two questions on the front page of the ballot are the school and municipal budget articles. At $45 million, the school budget represents a $491,000, or 14 cent increase, while the $17.6 million municipal budget is up nearly $1 million, or 7 cents, over the current budget.
Budget Article No. 3 actually deals with bonding, and the city's request for a $500,000, 10-year note with an interest rate not to exceed 4.25 percent, which would allow the city to make significant roof repairs. Budget Article No. 4 is a request for an additional $350,000 for road paving.
The final two bond articles on the ballot are a $4.725 million request that would fund the construction of a Community Center at Giorgetti Park and a $1.368 million request from the schools that would be put toward renovations and improvements at Stafford Technical Center.
Ten social service agencies are also requesting a total of $317,683, which is $14,677, or about $2 more on the tax bill of an average, $150,000 home than was granted last year. Those agencies and their requests are: Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter, $10,000; Rutland Mental Health Services, $30,000; ARC – Rutland Area, $35,900; Marble Valley Regional Transit District, $46,140; Rutland Area Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice, $43,000; Boys and Girls Club of Rutland County, $27,500; One-2-One Program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, InterAge and Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging, a total of $36,975; Regional Ambulance Service, $69,168; Vermont Adult Learning/ Rutland County Adult Basic Education, $9,000; BROC-Community Action in Southwestern Vermont, $10,000.
A final public meeting on the ballot will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in City Hall's aldermanic chambers.
Rutland's four polling locations, the Godnick Center in Ward 1, Christ the King School in Ward 2, American Legion in Ward 3 and Calvary Bible Church in Ward 4, are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.