Charlotte voters approve town budget handily, defeat community center study soundly

In the late afternoon of Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day voting, outside the Charlotte Town Hall was seeing a good bit of action with leaving and arriving cars having to dosey doe to get in or out of parking spaces.

With the sky starting to dim and less than three hours left before the polls would close, assistant town clerk Sy Koerner said the turnout had been steady.

As of Tuesday, Charlotte had just over 3,300 voters. Of these, 969 or 29 percent exercised their right to have a say-so in town decisions.

More than half of those voting, or 527, did so by absentee ballot.

From left, Louise McCarren, Robin Reid and Kate Mesarus were kept relatively busy, signing up a steady stream of voters on Town Meeting Day Tuesday. Photo by Scooter MacMillan.

The most controversial item on the ballot proved to be an article asking voters to approve $50,000 for a feasibility study to determine the viability of building a Charlotte community center. This proposal was soundly defeated 735-225 with more than 76 percent of votes cast against it.

The selectboard can breathe a sigh of relief as a sizeable majority (719-230 or more than 76 percent) voted for the town’s general budget of more than $2.6 million in spending for fiscal year 2022-23.

For the first time, voters decided on budgets for the Charlotte Library and Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services as separate articles. Although representatives from the boards of both those organizations spoke out against breaking these budgets out of the general town budget vote, both organizations’ budgets were approved anyway.

The Charlotte Library’s $283,000 budget for fiscal year 2022-23 passed by a big majority 696-262 with almost 72 percent of voters endorsing it.

The $850,000 budget for the Charlotte Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services proved to be more controversial than the library’s budget, passing by a slimmer 57 percent margin 534-405.

All of the candidates for town offices ran unopposed and there were no write-in candidates, so all were confirmed by voters.

The most popular candidate in town appears to be road commissioner Junior Lewis. Of the 969 people voting, 920 voted to re-elect him.

The next most popular candidates were apparently Mary Mead and Janice Heilmann, who were approved, respectively, as delinquent tax collector and Charlotte Library trustee, with each garnering 812 votes.

Also approved were James Faulkner – three-year term to the selectboard, Louise McCarren – two-year term to the selectboard, Charlie Russell – one-year term as town moderator, Richard Mintzer – three-year term as auditor and Matt Krasnow – one-year remaining of a three-year term as a trustee of public funds.

School district voting
In Champlain Valley School District voting, voters across the district approved the school system’s total budget for fiscal year 2022-23 of almost $89.4 million with 3,395, or 60 percent, voting yea to 2,204 nay votes.

This budget represents a 4.8 percent increase from this year’s budget. School system officials have said the increase is due to the need for adding diversity, equity and inclusion staff and increases in salaries and healthcare costs.

Voters overwhelmingly approved 4,531 to 997 (more than 82 percent) for moving $1 million from the fund balance to offset budget increases. The fund balance primarily is savings left from the unification of the schools into the Champlain Valley School District.

Almost 70 percent of voters (3,851 to 1,7140) supported the district’s request to borrow $210,000 to buy two new school buses to replace two buses that are more than 12 years old and have traveled more than 170,000 miles.

Voters also approved 4,040 to 1,530, an almost 73 percent winning margin, for the school system to secure a $7.5 million bond to fund upgrades, remediation, improvements and maintenance in hopes of avoiding “the need for large construction projects we have seen in the past,” according to district documents.

Projects totaling $865,000 proposed at Champlain Valley Union High School include heating and air conditioning upgrades, a section of roof and drainage work on some athletic fields.

There’s almost $4.8 million in work proposed for Charlotte Central School, including electrical and fire renovation and parking lot paving and work.