Wednesday March 6, 2013

STAMFORD -- The town’s library and hot lunches for elementary school students were the main topics at the town’s 260th annual town meeting Monday night.

Voters approved the town’s fiscal year 2014 operating budget of $624,890, an increase of 3.6 percent over the current year, and the Stamford Town School District’s budget of $1,696,706. Voters passed 11 of the 13 warrant articles at town meeting, and also passed all nine warrant articles for the annual school district meeting.

Though the article ultimately passed, some residents questioned the need for Article 7, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $25,525 for the town’s portion of the library’s operating budget.

Resident Heidi Thompson expressed her worry that residents wouldn’t be able to use the library since there was a concern about building security and people gaining access to the school through the library.

But Selectman David Bugbee said any security issues have been addressed. A dead-bolt lock was installed on the door between the school and the library, Bugbee said, and the library is open to the public during select hours.

"When the school’s using the library, the door to the outside locks so nobody can come into the school. When the school’s not using the library ... it will be open to the public," he explained.

Library Trustee Caroline Burch added that the library now has new hours to allow the public to use the library, and the hours are posted.

Carl Taylor of the Finance Committee questioned why the library was requesting a $25,525 when $10,000 exists in a reserve fund.

Library Trustee Patricia Burton said money in the reserve fund came from fundraising and memorial gifts, and was never intended for operating expenses.

In other business, voters also approved the formation of an Environmental Action and Energy Plan to study environmental issues relating to the town’s day-to-day operations, with no funds being allocated for the upcoming year.

The Finance Committee recommended turning down articles 12 and 13, which appeared on the warrant by petition from two charities.

However, after some discussion, voters approved article 12, appropriating $500 to support the programs of the Community Action In South-Western Vermont (BROC), formerly Bennington-Rutland Opportunity Council.

No motion was raised for article 13, which asked voters to appropriate $2,500 toward the Turning Point Recovery Center of Bennington County.

Matthew Croff, a BROC representative in attendance, said the Bennington-based organization gave assistance to 27 Stamford residents with heat, electricity and food needs in 2012.

During the school district meeting, much discussion centered on articles 4 and 5, requesting voters continue the hot lunch program at school and approve funding for the program at $17,870. The figure was amended by resident Jean Kurpiel, and raised to $21,000.

"Twenty-five percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch assistance," resident Jim Long said. "We need to pass the program. Those kids are not going to learn if they don’t have food in their stomachs."

Some residents voiced their opinion that the program was already overfunded, while others questioned why the cost had risen from previous years.

School Board Chair Cynthia Lamore explained there are a number of reasons why the cost of the program has gone up, including new federal regulations for the program and the rising price of food, both of which leave the program operating in a deficit. Voters ultimately approved the measure.

Other warrant articles that passed with little discussion include appropriating $10,600 for the fourth of five payments on the school’s heating project loan and $7,500 for the reserve fund.