Voters will consider adding school bus route, expanded pre-K program
by Lauren Harkawik
Mar 05, 2018 | 2684 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dover Selectboard chair Josh Cohen reads a letter urging Vermont’s congressional delegation to “do something” about gun control.  Board member Sarah Shippee looks on.
Dover Selectboard chair Josh Cohen reads a letter urging Vermont’s congressional delegation to “do something” about gun control. Board member Sarah Shippee looks on.
DOVER - Dover held its annual pre-Town Meeting on Tuesday night. On the town side, topics discussed included a contested race for a selectboard seat with a three-year term, new petitioned articles for appropriations, a proposed change to the date taxes are due, and the town’s budget, which is more or less even compared to last year. On the school side, items of interest included a proposed school bus to Brattleboro for secondary students, an annual appropriation for the MOOver, a proposal to extend pre-K programming to full-day, and the tax rate. At the end of the meeting, Josh Cohen read a letter he drafted on behalf of both boards regarding gun violence in schools.

Candis Muuss and Dan Baliotti are both running for a vacant three-year term on the selectboard. Baliotti was appointed by the board in November when Tom Baltrus resigned. Muuss has not served on the board before. Both candidates were given an opportunity to address attendees of the meeting.

In his remarks, Baliotti highlighted work he has done in the community, including speaking up when he noticed that Route 9 did not have signage indicating how to get to Dover and recently calling VTrans about the issue of potholes along Route 100. “Living here for 15 years, I like the kind of government we have where people are participating in it,” said Baliotti, “and that’s the kind of advocacy I believe is important as someone who works for the selectboard.”

In her remarks, Muuss said she has been a resident in the town for six years and that she would like to do her part to serve the town. “I fell in love with the town and it is my home,” said Muuss, noting that she would like to pour energy into establishing the town more firmly as a four-season destination. “I think it’s up to the town to do something about that and help increase revenue and help local businesses,” said Muuss.

Many of the town-related warned articles went without question or comment. Some discussion unfolded around articles pertaining to new appropriations, which were added to the warning by petition. New appropriations include the Windham County Disaster Animal Response Team ($250), Support for Services at Home ($15,000), and Deerfield Valley Rescue ($20,000). In discussion of Deerfield Valley Rescue, Royal Wilson asked if an appropriation can be made larger at Town Meeting. “Yes,” said school board chair and town moderator Rich Werner, “it would have to be done through an amendment from the floor.”

Linda Sherman questioned article 16, which asks whether the tax dates for the upcoming year should be September 15, 2018 and February 15, 2019. Previously, tax payments have been due on August 15 and February 15. “My concern is that there is typically six months between payments and this would leave five months,” said Sherman.

Tallini said tax bills would still be sent out in a similar window to when they’re sent now, so residents would have similar time to prepare for the payments. “The reason we want to change it is that at year end, there is a big time compression as to getting the books closed, understanding our financial position, getting the grand list, getting the education rate from the state, preparing for an audit, and then trying to get the selectboard together to set the tax rate,” said Tallini. “A lot of these things have been done almost in the 11th or 12th hour. I don’t think it’s necessary. If we have those extra few days I think it will be of benefit in the long run.”

The budget was not discussed in great detail, but responding to a question from Ken Black, vice chair Vicki Capitani noted that the budget is more or less even compared to last year.

Werner noted that a traditionally-included article, to discuss any other items that the voters would like to discuss, was not included at the end of the town side of the warning. He said a subsection of the town’s last article, article 17, will be added at Town Meeting to accommodate discussion.

On the school side of things, Johnny Cleanthes and Jolene Mahon are running unopposed for the school board seats they currently hold, which are three-year and two-year terms, respectively. Werner noted that neither will likely finish out their term, as their work will wrap up once the Dover School district finishes its business after the district officially merges with Wardsboro to form the River Valleys Unified School District on July 1, 2019.

Article 18, which asks whether the school district should expend $25,000 for a school bus to Brattleboro, led to some discussion. Werner said the board has decided not to take a stance on the matter. Deerfield Valley News publisher Randy Capitani asked whether the bus would remain in the River Valleys district after the upcoming school year, and Werner said there was no way to be sure.

“We haven’t discussed transportation for that district yet,” said Werner, who is chair of the River Valleys School Board. “But if we do do this, it could give us some good data for those discussions. If we run this bus and find no one is using it that is something good for River Valleys to know. Or does this bus provide a lot of opportunity for a lot of students who otherwise wouldn’t have had that school as a choice.”

Article 19 pertains to the alternative to the school’s proposed bus, the MOOver, which runs along Route 9 and goes through West Dover, Wilmington, and Marlboro before bringing students to Brattleboro. Historically, the Dover School has made a contribution of $4,000 to the MOOver because its students use the bus to get to Brattleboro Area Middle School and Brattleboro Union High School. “When we started talking about the bus to Brattleboro, I had people say then you don’t need the MOOver,” said Werner. “So we wanted to bring this up for discussion.”

Vicki Capitani noted that the MOOver serves students beyond those going to BAMS and BUHS. “The MOOVer is vital,” said Capitani. “It serves a lot of different students in a lot of different ways. It’s a great late bus and is used by students going to the career center as well.”

Werner said a representative from the MOOver would be present at Town Meeting to address the article.

A proposed switch to full-day pre-K for 4-year-olds also led to some discussion, with Werner again noting that the program would only be guaranteed for one year should the voters approve it, because educational programming for the River Valleys Unified School District has not yet been decided upon. Werner said that on this item as well, the board has decided not to take an official stance. The program is estimated to cost approximately $30,000.

Article 25 asks if the school district should authorize the school directors to withdraw money from the capital reserve fund to offset the homestead tax rate. “We’re shooting to get the tax rate at $1.50-ish,” said Werner. “Currently it looks like $1.62 if you vote this budget, but if we bring in money from reserve we can get it to $1.50.”

At the end of the meeting, selectboard chair Josh Cohen read a letter that he, speaking as a resident, asked both boards to send to Sen. Sanders, Sen. Leahy, and Rep. Welch demanding action on gun violence at schools. The letter received praise from several members of the community and led to some informal discussion about the issue of gun violence in schools. Though the selectboard intended to vote on the matter at pre-Town meeting and sign the letter, Werner said the school board wanted to wait until they had a full board present.

The letter will be re-read and discussed at Town Meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, at 10 am at Dover Town Hall.
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