Budget passes, barely
By STEPHANIE M. PETERS STAFF WRITER | March 03,2010
Cassandra Hotaling / Rutland Herald
Chuck Regula (right), a Rutland City firefighter, and Brian Fitzsimmons of the Rutland City maintenance department hold signs in front of Christ The King School on Tuesday.
Given the chance to vote on the municipal budget for the first time, city voters approved the mayor's $17.6 million proposal by only 104 votes Tuesday.
Still, the final outcome – not the margin by which it passed – is all that mattered to Mayor Christopher Louras on Tuesday night, he said.
"I think the taxpayers have shown that the city services they receive are very, very important to them and they're willing to pay to maintain those services," he said.
Among the largest city services voters will receive under this budget proposal are the hiring of three full-time firefighters, which will restore the department to its 2008 staffing levels, the implementation of a modified duty program, and Efficiency Vermont improvements throughout city buildings.
Voter turnout was high across the city's four wards, so high in fact that City Clerk Henry Heck said he believes that it surpassed last year, when 33 percent of the city's 11,000 or so voters turned out to cast ballots on a two-man mayoral race and a crowded field of aldermanic candidates. Voters only squashed one proposal with a price tag attached to it – a $4.725 million bond to construct the Community Center at Giorgetti Park.
The most popular item on the ballot was one that the aldermen were at first tentative to put to the voters – an extra $350,000 in paving funds Louras originally included in his budget. At the mayor's suggestion, it was "cleaved out" of the main budget proposal and placed on the ballot as Budget Article No. 4. It passed by a vote of 2,813 to 1,083 – the single largest vote margin among Tuesday's results.
"Frankly, I thought it would be because I've always contended that the taxpayers are willing to pay extra as long as they feel like they're getting a value for their money," Louras said. "Repaving streets is a value for the money. The taxpayers understand how important it is to invest in their infrastructure. I think you also saw that with the (outcome of) the library building (bond vote.)"
In what was a quiet six-way race for five seats on the Board of Aldermen, four-time candidate Daniel P. White Sr. had his strongest finish in a race yet with 1,153 votes, but it was still not enough to earn him a seat on the 11-person board.
Board President David Allaire led the ticket with 2,689 votes. He was followed by newcomer Edward Larson, a retired Rutland City police corporal who pounded the pavement in his campaign, reaching out to residents, city employees and business owners alike. Rounding out the results were incumbents William Notte with 2,418 votes, Sharon Davis with 2,359 votes and Christopher Robinson with 2,200 votes.
"I'm delighted with my finish basically. I would have settled for fifth," Larson said Tuesday evening as he took a minute to step away from a celebratory gathering at South Station Restaurant. "I really respect the voters for showing their trust in me and hopefully I can prove that trust to them.
"If not, I'm sure they'll release me from the position in two years," he said.
Allaire worked before heading to the polls in the late afternoon, while Larson, Notte and Davis, along with family and friends, spent the entire day greeting voters outside the city's four polling locations. Davis said her day began at 6:15 a.m., when she headed out the door to place her signs and then vote. Larson was accompanied during the morning by his dog, Boomer, who did his part by donning a light blue sweater encouraging support for Larson.
Notte, meanwhile, sent his mother to Christ the King – the warmest of the four locations – and his fiancée to Cavalry Bible Church. It was her first campaigning experience, but it didn't take long for her to form an opinion, Notte said.
"When she found out what holding a sign entailed, she said she was in favor of two-year term limits," Notte said.