Morristown to decide on new budget after failed Town Meeting Day vote

Morristown will be making another go at passing its budget next month. Rachel Mann compares the original and new version, as voters shot down the first draft.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 11:51 PM EDT
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MORRISTOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - Morristown will make another go at passing its budget next month. Residents voted down the last one proposed on Town Meeting Day, saying it was too big.

The one Morristown voters shot down in March would have come with a 25% increase in spending. The biggest costs there were salaries and benefits for town employees. While those items didn’t change in the currently proposed budget, other significant cuts were made.

“It’s about $900,000 less than we had originally budgeted,” said Morristown Selectboard Vice Chair Don McDowell, explaining that most of those cuts were from the Morristown Highway Department’s operating costs. “Paving was cut,” he said. “Sand, salt was cut.”

They also put off purchasing a new pickup truck and payments on two dump trucks are now in a different fiscal year because of the delay in passing a budget.

New Selectboard Member Chris Palermo says they essentially started with a clean slate to meet people’s needs. Palermo and McDowell say, with a few outliers, most feedback has been positive.

“It was a clear directive. Anything above 10% was going to be unacceptable,” Palermo said, explaining this budget increase comes to 12.6%. “But when we factor in the growth of our Grand List, which was significant this year, we were able to bring this down to a 9.7% increase.”

Around the time voters decide on the budget, Town Administrator Eric Dodge will be stepping down. Dodge faced a fair amount of scrutiny for salary increases in the original budget. However, the select board is standing by them again this time around, citing the cost of living.

Dodge tells WCAX News his reasons for stepping down are personal.

“I am going to miss this job, incredibly so. It was a difficult decision for me. I love these people I work with,” he said. “They are fantastic professionals”

McDowell and Palermo spoke highly of Dodge, saying it will be hard to replace his institutional knowledge. They say the search for his replacement is still in the early stages.

With Dodge’s position becoming vacant, three recently elected select board members and a growing population, it’s clear Morristown is going through a transitional phase.

“We just have so much opportunity. It’s a great place to live,” Dodge said. “I would say the future is quite bright here.”

This budget will be before voters on June 6.