Sharon voters pass budgets, start conversation about surveillance cameras in town

This story was first published in The Herald of Randolph, in the March 7, 2019, edition.

Sharon voters approved the school budget and an amended town budget, elected a new selectboard and two new school board directors, and discussed at length the use of security cameras around town.

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The father of Austin Colson, the 19-year-old teen from Royalton who went missing in early 2018 and whose remains were later found in Norwich, asked the town voters to increase the budget by $500 for the purpose of installing security cameras on the town offices. He argued that in his son’s case, which is still an open murder investigation, footage from the road would have helped. But he emphasized that a lot of drug transactions are happening on the Park and Ride, near the interstate. A few voters shared their concerns about having cameras in the community for privacy reasons. Debra. St. Peter, Town Clerk, shared Colson’s concerns, reporting frequent suspicious activities on the Park and Ride across the street, and people coming in the Town Offices with strange behaviors. A few voters raised concerns about how to properly address the opioid crisis that is prevalent in our community, arguing that it is a valid issue but $500 doesn’t seem to be a valid solution. Deborah Hopkins, operation director at Central Vermont Substance Abuse, agreed that this is an issue that needs to be addressed in Sharon, and urged the selectboard to not only look at the enforcement and monitoring aspect of the issue but also about education and support in our community. The amendment failed, but the selectboard agreed to discuss the installation of cameras at their next selectboard meeting.

The $1.55-million budget was amended to donate $5000 to South Royalton Rescue for the purchase of a new ambulance and was passed by the 82 voters attending with little concerns. The increased budget is predicted to result in a 7.5 cent increase in the municipal tax rate.

Joe Ronan was elected in 2018 for 1 year remaining in a 3-year-term. He was re-elected for a 3-year-term in an unopposed election on Tuesday by Australian ballot.

School Meeting

About 50 people attended the Sharon School Meeting on Monday night and approved a $4.48-million budget.

Questions and concerns were raised about money that should have been transferred to a Building Reserve Fund. Barrett Williams, principal of Sharon Elementary School, explained that last year, the voters of Sharon voted to move $101,000 to a Building Reserve Fund. He explained that the money was never transferred by the Supervisory Union at the time. Instead of being transferred, the money was used to offset the deficit: instead of a deficit of $178,000, the deficit at the end of the last fiscal year was $78,000. Williams went on to explain that because the voters voted to transfer the money, the money now had to be transferred, and will come out of this year’s budget. Mary Gavin, selectboard member speaking as a voter, shared her concerns about this omission.

The budget is up by 2.1% from last year, but the predicted tax rate increase for this year is 8.6¢ due to a lower CLA (Common Level of Appraisal) and decreased number of students.

Samantha Brown-Potter was elected to fill in the remaining 2 years of a 3-year-term on a voice vote. Chantelle Bracket was elected for a 3-year-term on a voice vote.

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