Article 4, to raise and appropriate $2,202,095 for the general fund, was increased to $2,207,095 after Wilmington resident Claudette Hollenbeck offered a motion to add $5,000 to fund the Support and Services at Home program.
Hollenbeck said the program, with local headquarters at Butterfield Common in Dover, serves people over 65 and people with disabilities.
The program provides access to services that allow people to remain in their homes, reducing nursing home stays. She said it saves Medicare about $1,400 per person, per year. “The big thing is, if you have a hospital stay, they’ll coordinate your services when you come out so you don’t have to go to a nursing home. It saves a fortune.”
The amendment passed, but John Barker Willard Jr. made a motion to cut the general fund amount by 10%, to $1.8 million. “We’re seeing a 22-cent increase in the education tax, that’s huge,” he said. “We’ve just heard about old people and the problems they’re having, and this (tax increase) is going to make it really tough for them. Let’s help out the people trying to stay in Wilmington. We’ve seen quite an exodus the last few years.” Willard’s amendment was defeated.
Voters questioned a $200,000 line item for school user fees, noting that Whitingham Selectboard members had chosen to increase taxes by omitting the user fee this year. “This is the school user fee we’ve been using since about 1999,” said Wilmington Selectboard Chair Tom Fitzgerald. “We still use this school for Town Meeting and social and community events. It reduces our taxes, so we’re going to keep doing this on our end.”
Perhaps ironically, this year’s user fee paid by Wilmington to the Twin Valley Unified Union School District may do more to reduce Whitingham’s education tax rate than Wilmington’s. The homestead school tax rate for Wilmington property owners was capped under a provision of Act 46. Whitingham’s rate did not reach the cap.
Article 4, with Hollenbeck’s amendment, passed on a voice vote.
Voters passed Article 5, to raise $1,410,174 for the town’s highway department budget, on a voice vote. Selectboard member Ann Manwaring’s compliment to the road crew for their work over the winter received a round of applause.
Voters passed two articles calling for small donations to local programs. Voter Bill Adams, who said both were “good causes,” suggested making the donations from the 1% local option tax fund, rather than raising the money in property taxes. Cliff Duncan noted that the donations were not seen as economic or community development, but agreed that donations may be a burden on the property tax. “To me, we already offer huge community support just in the amount of tax money being assessed on people who can afford to pay more to pay for the (income sensitivity) prebate. That’s a huge transfer of money to people who are financially deprived. And I have no problem with that, I understand it, but pretty soon you run out of other people’s money.”
Under Articles 8 and 9, voters authorized the selectboard to continue to support the recycling site at the former town garage site for the rest of the year, and to fund the operation for the next fiscal year. In December, board members found that the $18,000 budget for the year had nearly been exhausted. Fitzgerald told Town Meeting voters that the cause appeared to be increased usage of the site by people from surrounding towns, after their local sites closed. Fitzgerald also said that illegal dumping at the site was an added expense.
Merrill Mundell urged voters to keep the recycling site open. “One place I don’t want to see this stuff is on the side of the road, or in the ditch, in my driveway, or over the bank and in the brook.”
Meg Streeter said she disagreed with Mundell. “What I see, pretty much every other day, is an increasing amount of garbage thrown in the bins,” she said. “We have a lot of rental properties that aren’t managed by anyone, rented though things like Airbnb. Many people see the recycling containers as dumpsters they can use on their way out of town Sunday night.”
Linda Brophy suggested moving the recycling containers to a site that’s less visible. “Maybe we could move them to the new town garage, behind the fence, where people might consider not dumping their trash.”
Several more people spoke in favor of keeping access to recycling in the village, and of taking steps to reduce abuse of the site. Selectboard members said they have, and will continue to, considered moving the containers. Voter Nicki Steel offered an amendment to Article 9 that, after several “friendly” amendments from voters and board members, raised up to $32,000 to fund recycling for the upcoming fiscal year at the former town garage site or at an alternative site near the village. The amended article passed on voice vote.
Several voters attempted to reduce or pass over some of the capital reserve fund articles on the warning. Under Article 10, to raise $265,000 for the highway department equipment fund, Julie Lineberger urged voters to reduce the amount or to pass over the articles. John Barker Willard Jr. agreed. “I’ll make a motion to raise no money for this,” he said. “Come back a year from now and ask us.” Adams urged voters not to reduce the capital fund payment. “If we cut the highway fund, we’re looking at the town roads resembling the state roads,” he said. “I think we ought to maintain our roads.”
Voters passed the article after road supervisor Bill Hunt explained that the amount includes lease payments and the replacement of trucks that, if deferred, would result in increased costs in the future.
Similar discussions were held on other capital fund articles, but all of the articles passed.
By the time voters got to Article 19, to establish and raise $75,000 for a property reappraisal fund, and Article 20, to establish and raise $20,000 for a police equipment fund, voters seeking to make reductions appeared to have given in to the mood of the room, and both passed without discussion.
Wilmington had no contested races on the Town Meeting ballot, and incumbents on the ballot were returned to office. In Twin Valley Unified Union School District results, Whitingham and Wilmington voters passed the school budget in a 200 to 121 vote. Whitingham voters elected Maria Cunningham and James Walker to the union school board, both with 110 votes, and Wilmington voters returned Kathy Larsen to the board with 205 votes. Voters in both towns returned incumbents Leon Corse as school district moderator, Almira Aekus as clerk, and Christine Richter as treasurer.