Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 26, 2018
Surry voters approve 66 articles in 96 minutes
Firefighter Elizabeth Volkwein, left, and Selectman Rebecca Collision introduce the Are you OK? program.
by Anne Berleant
In a meeting absent of controversy or lengthy debate, 65 voters passed all warrant articles at an April 23 annual town meeting led by veteran moderator Tony Beardsley.
A municipal budget of $1,063,472 and school budget of $2,642,000 were swiftly approved. The increase of 1.62 percent means a projected 2018-19 mill rate of $8.90 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a $0.35 increase.
The $98,286 school budget increase was driven by a rise in health insurance costs and the number of high school students, now at 49, for which Surry pays tuition to area high schools. The cost of educating the 175 kindergarten through 12th grade Surry students stands at $12,535 each.
Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said the school is adding a half-day physical education position and a special education teacher “because of the caseload we currently have and the caseload we are anticipating next year.”
The $394,422 special education budget prompted a question of how many students required those services. The answer was 21 elementary school students, or 17 percent, and four high school students, or 10 percent.
On the revenue side, the state subsidy is projected at $100,000. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and get $120,000,” Hurvitt said. With a carryover balance of $167,000, a number Hurvitt said the board “feels good about,” $120,000 will be used for the 2018-19 budget, with about $80,000 projected surplus at the end of this fiscal year.
The required written ballot approving local funding above what is required by the state—Hurvitt pointed out that over 80 percent of state schools spend above the state requirement—passed 55-4.
Questions on municipal articles ranged from “Who’s our harbormaster?” to “Who gets to pick where the $59,000 road maintenance [budget] is spent?” The longest discussion centered around the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station. The concern was not Surry’s $113,487 share of the budget but the contract with MRC/Fiberight that started April 1. With the new facility not yet built, one citizen asked, “At what point do we back away?”
“We would have to say they failed. They’re late. They haven’t failed,” Selectman Bill Matlock said, explaining that the construction delay was not from financing or the trash-to-biofuel process but weather and the general contractor bowing out.
Voters also approved all nonprofit requests, totaling around $21,000, $6,000 in general assistance, and the appropriation of $10,250 from the Backpack Program reserve account, money raised through donations and fundraisers. The program, in its first year, sends food home with school children and has provided 1,000 days of food.
“We’re filling a very important need,” Tom Welgoss said.
Volunteer firefighter Elizabeth Volkwein also introduced the Are You OK? program, where residents could sign up for well-being checks.
In election results, Selectman Bill Matlock was reelected with 49 votes and school board member Michelle Berger with 48 votes. Both ran unopposed.