Buckland voters asked to retroactively approve debt exclusion in Tuesday election

  • Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during Tuesday’s election at Buckland Town Hall, pictured. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2021 4:00:04 PM

BUCKLAND — Although there are no contested races on the ballot for the annual town election on Tuesday, voters will be asked to retroactively approve by ballot a debt exclusion approved at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting.

Town Administrator Heather Butler explained that in 2018, Annual Town Meeting voters approved an article to borrow $230,000 for improvements to the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School. The vote, however, was contingent upon passing a debt exclusion, which means the town could borrow the money but wouldn’t have to make annual payments within the restrictions of Proposition 2½.

“In accordance with the Department of Revenue, they would have had to call a special election to ratify that Town Meeting vote,” Butler said. “It looks as if that step was overlooked by municipal officials, so when we discovered the error, we asked the Department of Revenue for some guidance.”

The Department of Revenue informed the town that because it was a regional vote — the debt exclusion was intended for the Mohawk Trail Regional School District — and because the other towns had already ratified the same question, Buckland would not have to return to Town Meeting.

“But if we wanted to debt exclude the annual debt payment, we needed to ratify the Town Meeting vote, even this late,” Butler said.

Last year, she explained, instead of debt excluding the roughly $28,000 payment, the town moved some money around in the general budget to cover the annual payment. If voters don’t approve Tuesday’s ballot question, the town will have to find money within the general budget once again.

“We would still be obligated to pay the amount,” she said. “We still owe money.”

Polls will be open on Tuesday — a notable day for Buckland, which typically holds elections on Mondays — from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Town Hall.

“This is the first time we’re having our annual town election on a Tuesday,” Butler said. “At our last Annual Town Meeting, we voted to amend our town bylaws from Monday to Tuesday with the anticipation we’ll increase voter turnout.”

Tuesday’s election will also be the first for Interim Town Clerk Karen Blom, Butler said. She assumed the role when she was appointed in February, replacing former Town Clerk Elizabeth Cerone.

Blom is the only candidate running for a two-year term as town clerk.

Also on the ballot is Clinton Phillips, running for a three-year term on the Selectboard; Phoebe Walker, running for re-election as the moderator; Elizabeth Cerone, running for re-election to a three-year term on the Board of Assessors; Catherine Russillo, running for re-election to a three-year term as a Buckland Public Library trustee; Dena Willmore, running for a one-year term on the Finance Committee; Floyd Scott, running for re-election to another three-year term as constable; and finally, Dean Singer and Margaret Louise Hart, running for two Board of Health seats, one with a three-year term and the other for two years.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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