GEORGIA — Town Meeting Day will move to Australian ballot this year due to the ongoing pandemic, replacing the traditional floor meeting and vote. This decision was made after the passing of legislation in the state that allowed towns to change typical Town Meeting Day procedures to improve safety amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
All registered voters in Georgia will get an informational card in the mail before getting their ballot, which will outline all of the details about Town Meeting Day.
An informational meeting is scheduled to be held by the board via Zoom on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. The link and details to access the meeting is available on the Town of Georgia’s website and is also available on the information card mailed out to all of Georgia’s registered voters.
Similar to the November elections, voters have the option to mail or deliver their ballot to the Town Office before Town Meeting Day. Ballots can also be dropped off at the town office on March 2 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Some of the major changes in this year’s proposed budget are a $13,588 increase to the fire department budget, and an increase in town board spending, with a majority of that increase being toward an increase of the zoning and planning salaries. There is also a roughly $12,000 increase in the allocation towards buildings and grounds.
The Town of Georgia was able to end the year with a surplus that is being rolled over to the proposed budget for 2021. The Georgia Selectboard proposes a budget at a 3.5% increase over 2020, which comes to a tax rate of $3.10 per $100,000 of assessed value. The proposed total expenses for 2020 were $3,4887,558, which would decrease to $3,149,073 under the proposed budget.
One notable decrease in the budget is in the total grants and capital expenditures. In 2020, it was budgeted to be $826,983 and in 2021 it is proposed to be half of that, at $403,129. The spending for general government annual budgets for the selectboard would also decrease. In 2020, there was $260,553 allocated here and in 2021 the proposal is for $249,123.
Town Administrator Amber Baker said that a lot of these decisions for the budget this year were out of the town’s control, and that there was not just one reason for these changes. The cost of living in Georgia has gone up, as well as the prices for insurance, emergency services and other outside entities, she said.
In an email, Selectboard Chair Scott St. Ogne said “the board was able to see what positions could fill multiple roles, how those would change with future growth, and what would be needed moving forward. By looking at the duties, obligations, and responsibilities from a holistic perspective, the Board was able to add positions to better serve the growing needs of the Town with minimal impact to the budget.”
Article 1 asks voters to elect: One town moderator for a year, a selectboard member for three years, two selectboard members for one year, a first constable for one year, a second constable for one year, one library trustee for three years, three library trustees for one year, a planning commissioner for four years, two planning commissioners for one year and a director to the Georgia Industrial Development Corporation for three years.
Anyone with questions about Town Meeting Day in Georgia should contact the town office during normal business hours. Town reports are also available to be picked up at the normal locations or off of the town’s website.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Madison Froelich, a reporter with the Community News Service, a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.