Ballot Items

There are three articles to be voted on by ballot in March 2018: 

  • The General Operating Fund Budget (Article 13)
  • An amendment to the Town Charter to change the Town Clerk/Treasurer from an elected officer to a merit-based, appointed official (Article 14)
  • An agreement for the formation of a union municipal district to be known as the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority, for the purpose of providing regional emergency dispatch (Article 15)
The annual Town Meeting Day insert went out in the February 1 Colchester Sun and was also mailed to those who do not subscribe to the Sun. But in case you missed it, you can read the insert here.

Ballots will be available at the Town Clerk's Office by February 15, 2018. You may review a sample ballot here

Ballot Questions

Article 13: Town Operating Budget

“Shall the voters of the Town of Colchester approve total general fund expenditures of twelve million, eight hundred sixteen thousand, three hundred twenty dollars ($12,816,320), of which ten million, three hundred ninety-two thousand, four hundred eight dollars ($10,392,408) shall be raised by taxes and two million, four hundred twenty-three thousand, nine hundred thirteen dollars ($2,423,913) by non -tax revenues for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019?”

For your review, budget documents are listed below.

Budget Presentation FY 19 (PDF) 

Article 14: Proposed Town Charter Amendments regarding Subchapter 2: Officers and Subchapter 4: Town Manager

“Shall the voters vote to amend Section 202 to eliminate the elected offices of Town Clerk/Treasurer and Section 404 to authorize the Town Manager, with advice and consent of the Selectboard, to appoint the Town Clerk and Town Treasurer?”

Complete language of Proposed Charter Amendments:

(Strikethrough to be removed; underlined to be added.)

Article 13: Subchapter 2: Officers and Subchapter 4: Town Manager
To amend Section 202. Elective officers; generally
(a) At the annual meeting the town shall elect by Australian ballot from among the legally qualified voters thereof the following town officers, who shall serve until the next annual meeting or until others are chosen:
(1) Selectboard number, terms of office, election:
(2) A moderator
(3) A town clerk and treasurer for a term of two (2) years. 
(4)(3) One lister for a term of three (3) year
(5)(4) A library trustee for a term of five (5) years

To amend Section 404. Powers and Duties

(k) The Town Manager shall have authority to appoint, fix the salary of, suspend and remove all employees of the Town, including the Town Clerk and Treasurer, subject to the provisions of this Charter. The Manager shall obtain the advice and consent of a majority of the Selectboard before appointing or fixing the salary of the head of any department, to include the Town Clerk and Treasurer.

Some Background of the Amendment Proposal

In 2014, per a recommendation by the Governance Committee (a citizen group) the Selectboard approved an amendment to the Colchester Charter making the Town Clerk/Treasurer an appointed position, rather than elected, and it was put to the voters on the November 2014 ballot. The amendment was narrowly voted down by a 13-vote margin: 2,142 to 2,155. Upon the Governance Committee’s second review of the Town Charter, their recommendation for the amendment stood. It was put before the Selectboard and on November 28, 2017 they again approved the proposed amendment to be put before Colchester voters on the March 2018 ballot.

The proposed amendment is endorsed by Karen Richard, our current Town Clerk/Treasurer, who says:

Today's Town Clerk and Treasurer Office is not the same as 30 years ago. The Town Clerk is the custodian of all public records, including land records, election records, vital records etc. The Town Treasurer is a key player in maintaining the town's financial records: [S/he]invests town monies, bills and collects Town and Education taxes, makes deposits, etc. The banking is online, the tax payments are received from escrow companies electronically. The land records are scanned and the images can be researched online. Voters register on the State Election system, and through the automatic registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles; election results are entered electronically to the Secretary of State. Today's Town Clerk/Treasurer must keep up with rapid changing technologies as well as a multitude of statutory changes.

Elected Town Clerk/Treasurer: Frequently Asked Questions: 

Q: What are the qualifications or skills required to run for the office of clerk/treasurer?
A: You need to be a registered voter in town and file a petition signed by 30 registered voters by the deadline.

Q: Is an elected clerk/treasurer required to obtain training for the position?
A: No, there are no requirements for elected officials.

Q: Is the clerk/treasurer required to work a certain number of hours per week?
A: No, there are no requirements for job attendance.

Q: If the elected treasurer is suspected of embezzlement, can the administration have the treasurer removed from office? 
A: No. For example, in the Town of Coventry, the treasurer was suspected of embezzling funds and refused to turn over the records or cooperate with auditors. When it was determined that $870,000 was missing the Town filed a claim with their insurance company. The insurance company paid the claim, and then refused to bond the treasurer. Statute does require a treasurer to be bonded. That enabled the Town of Coventry to remove the person from office. It was a long process.

Q: Does the State require a professional audit of the Town’s finances?
A: No. This can result in many years of mismanaged funds before it is discovered.

Article 15: Formation of a Union Municipal District for Regional Public Safety Dispatch Service

“Shall the Town of Colchester enter into an agreement for the formation of a union municipal district to be known as the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority, for the purpose of providing regional emergency dispatch?”

This proposal comes after the issue was first considered fifty years ago and follows on the success of the combined Colchester/Milton public safety dispatch service. A Joint Survey Committee (JSC) with representative officials from Burlington, Colchester, Essex, Milton, Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston and Winooski, conducted a 2016 study that focused on the implementation of studies completed in 1995 and 2000, both of which determined that regional public safety dispatch was possible and desirable.

The JSC determined that a regional dispatch center/911 call center combined in one location can reduce response time by an average of 71 seconds per call by eliminating the call transfer required when 911 calls go first to the 911 Call Center, then relayed to a local dispatch. This means faster response by police, fire, and emergency medical staff to residents and businesses in need. Other benefits of a regional public safety dispatch service include improvement of mutual aid between towns, an increased number of dispatchers on duty, and dedicated oversight of services.

The Committee also spent considerable time analyzing the most effective governance structure for a regional dispatch and it now proposes the creation of a union municipal district to deliver regional public safety dispatch service in Chittenden County.

Voter approval of the agreement is only the first step and will not obligate municipalities to pay for or receive services. If the agreement is authorized, additional details will be developed and the Selectboard will have to approve a funding Memorandum of Understanding before funding for operations and dispatch service would be provided.

You may read the complete union municipal district agreement here. Letters of support from the seven public safety chiefs serving Colchester and other regional public safety officials may be reviewed here. More information about the project is available at the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission’s website here.

Watch this CCTV that Chittenden County Public Safety Authority Ballot Question Panel interview  for question-and-answer session about this issue.