Change at Town Meeting?

MANCHESTER - There are some changes headed to Manchester, pending voter approval, of course. At a select board meeting January 23, the select board approved the budget for fiscal year 2015, as well as the warned articles to be voted at Town Meeting.

Article five states, "Shall the Town vote on appropriations authorized under 24 V.S.A. 2691 (aid to social services) that are greater than $2,500 by Australian ballot?"

Town Manager John O'Keefe said this article was added due to the increase in voted appropriations since 2002. "If you look at voted appropriations in 2002, we were at $16,000," he said. "We're now at $220,731."

Voted appropriations, he said, have increased 1,390%, while the town budget has increased about 3.5% each year. The annual rise in the town budget is close to a cost of living increase.

While voted appropriations have been on the rise, Town Meeting attendance has fallen. Linda Spence, town clerk, said at least three times as many people vote as do come to Town Meeting. Participation at last year's Town Meeting was only 4.9% of 3,347 registered voters in Manchester.

Ivan Beattie, select board chair, said this measure of taking larger appropriations and voting for them by Australian ballot has come up in the past, but now is important to change.

"I support this, I don't like it but I support this [change from Town Meeting to voting by Australian Ballot for large voted appropriations]," he said.

Among the warned articles was $198,000 for the Mark Skinner Library and $150,000 from the capital improvement and contingency reserve fund to purchase an ambulance for the Manchester Rescue Squad.


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