Sharon voters approve school and town budgets, discuss climate change

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This story was first published in The Herald of Randolph, in the March 8, 2018, edition.

Sharon voters approved the school and town budgets, elected a new selectboard, returned a school board member to another term, and passed a non-binding resolution to urge legislators to address climate change issues.

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Sharon was among 35 other towns in the state to urge legislators to address climate change, an effort led by 350 Vermont, the state chapter of The lively discussion led to two failed amendments, which would have made the language of the article more specific. Cat Buxton, a proponent of the article, reminded on several occasions the voters that non-binding resolutions are meant to signal to the legislators the intent of the people, not to make laws or to be too specific. After 30 minutes, the article was approved as written almost unanimously.

The proposed $1.48-million budget, which went up by about $27,000, was amended by Brad Atwood to add about $1300 to the budget for Stagecoach Transportation. Brad Atwood, who is the Town Representative for Stagecoach Transportation, argued that this amendment would reflect the fair share that Sharon should contribute to the cost of operation. Stagecoach has been serving the town of Sharon not only with busing to the Upper Valley, but also in free private rides for people with disabilities and senior citizens to meal-sites or medical appointments. The voters approved the budget with the amendment, which will result in a 1.6 cent increase in the municipal tax rate.

Joe Ronan, who has been appointed in January to replace Luke Pettengill, was elected as a write-in candidate by Australian ballot for selectboard for 1 year remaining in a 3 year-term. Mary Gavin was re-elected for a 3 year-term in an uncontested seat for selectboard. She has been on the selectboard since 2012. Other ballot elections saw incumbents returned to office.

Mary Gavin talked extensively about the state of the roads in Sharon, and the plan in the coming years to improve the condition of some major roads. She warned the town that this will be an expensive endeavor, but there will be plenty of opportunities for the public to attend meetings, and reports will be made available on the website and in the town offices to review.   

School Meeting

About 50 people attended the Sharon School Meeting on Monday night to approve a $4.39-million budget.

The meeting, which only lasted about 40 minutes, began with board members giving an update on Act 46. As Steve Gagliardone explained to the crowd, the board submitted paperwork to the state to not merge with any other district. Because of the unique structure of Sharon, a preK-6 with school choice for 7-12, the board couldn’t find any other towns in the close vicinity to merge with. The board expects to hear back from the state in May.

In his report to the voters, Principal Barrett Williams explained that although the budget is increasing by about $256,000, only about $36,000 are attributed to the elementary school budget. He explained that $220,000 is in secondary tuition costs, an expense the voters and the board doesn’t have a say in.

The per equalized pupil spending will increase to $16,033, a 3.3% increase from the previous year. This will be an approximate $70 increase in the annual tax on a home valued at $200,000, Barrett pointed out. The budget was passed with little discussion.

He also announced that after hearing back from former students, he decided to start offering a foreign language component to the curriculum. Former students felt at a disadvantage when entering middle school because other schools in the area offer foreign language at an earlier stage. Barrett said that the foreign language will be determined by the application received for this part-time position. “It could be French, Spanish, or Mandarin,” he said.

Karen Henderson was re-elected for a 3-year-term on a voice vote.

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