Budget talks and a vote against a net-metering agreement at Selectboard meeting

The Town of Charlotte, VT

Members at Monday’s Selectboard meeting passed the FY2021 proposed budget and articles for Town Meeting. The proposed budget was further trimmed by the Selectboard with suggestions from Town Treasurer Mary Mead, Assistant Town Clerk Christina Booher, and from the public. There were more attendees at this meeting than in several months, each there for varying topics, but the budget took center stage.

Anticipated total expenses are $3,432,165, tax revenues are $1,963,357, and non-tax revenues are $1,459,808. This equates to a tax rate of $0.2111 without the proposed articles (trail reserve fund and non-profit donations). Chair Matt Krasnow estimated the increase to be about 4% from the previous year’s tax rate of $0.2027. With the proposed articles, the tax rate would be $0.2191, an increase of approximately 8% from the previous year.

After highlighting the largest year over year budget increases: CVFRS appropriations, transfer to the highway reserve fund, town clerk and senior center maintenance, discussion centered on the improvement and repair fund. The board decided to leave in funds for the Town Hall roof and lighting, and reduced funds for the senior center roof and HVAC. Booher said, “The Town Hall needs some attention. We’ve got issues we need to address, this building needs some work. This is where all the meetings are held.” Mead asked the board to consider setting aside some requests, “We just can’t have it all in the same year. Our budget where it is sitting is just way too high. Sometimes you just have to say no.”

Krasnow asked Mead and Booher if they would consider cutting the proposed part time assistant town clerk position. Booher replied, “I will be leaving. It would be nice to train someone to be able to replace me.” Booher did not give a time frame but indicated it would be by the end of the year.

After approving the budget, the Selectboard voted and approved the articles for Town Meeting, including Article 4 for $57,000 to be transferred into the Trails Reserve Fund and Article 5 for $17,992 to be distributed to nonprofit organizations listed in the town report. The articles both arose from budget discussions in previous Selectboard meetings.

Net Metering Agreement
Energy Committee member John Quinney and Sam Carlson from Green Lantern Solar presented a draft net metering agreement to the Selectboard. Board member Louise McCarren spoke primarily on the topic, saying, “I have grave reservations about this.” She distributed an email she had already sent to Quinney outlining her concerns. Carlson attempted to address them during the meeting. The central issues for McCarren were the length of the 25-year agreement, anticipated savings, and “dealing with an entity that is not regulated.” She also took issue with a section in the contract for non-performance. “365 days of non-performance before it becomes a default; seems to me a little bit much,” she said. Carlson replied, “Our interests are entirely aligned. If our system doesn’t produce, you don’t pay a penny.” The board voted 2-3 on the agreement, with McCarren, Vice Chair Frank Tenney and Carrie Spear against.

Other Business
The Selectboard received an email from the school district about providing security for elections held at the school; see the article on page 1.

During public comment, Selectboard member Fritz Tegatz read from a prepared statement regarding the West Charlotte Village Wastewater ordinances. He said a recent article in The Charlotte News “implies or even states the impetus for this issue is a request for a couple of businesses in town to use the septic facility. That’s not correct and it’s also misleading.” He said the matter was first discussed in 2008 and the committee created in 2009 by a vote at town meeting. It was reported about at town meeting in 2012 and then in 2017 an advisory motion, “encouraged the commission and town to pursue this issue.” He said he was on the wastewater committee for almost three years, and that “the committee met two times a month in a warned notice and nobody ever showed up.”

The Selectboard approved a request from Race Vermont to use town roads for running events in May and September. The board also approved two Thompson’s Point landowners’ request for authorization to apply for conditional use review for shoreline improvements. They also approved an agreement and consent to collateral assignment of lease of the Caretaker’s Cottage on Thompson’s Point as part of the ongoing process of replacing the of the Association’s water treatment facility.

The Selectboard also heard from resident Bill Agnew, who requested the board review the ordinance for the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge for compliance with state law regarding prohibition of firearms. Agnew said, “My concern is the regulations in the town ordinance are in conflict with the state preemption statue.” Krasnow said they would bring the information to the town attorney to review and discuss at future meeting. The Selectboard also approved an increase of hours for the Tech Librarian and to continue their contract with Sullivan and Powers for the annual financial audit.

The next Selectboard meeting is scheduled for February 10 at 6 p.m.