Residents voted “yes” to both the town operating budget, which passed 1728 to 858, and to the school budget, which passed 1582 to 1036, according to unofficial numbers from town manager Aaron Frank Tuesday night.
“We’re really excited about the operating budget, it looks like it passed about two to one which is a real nice margin,” Frank said. “I feel like it shows a lot of confidence in the work of the selectboard and the town staff.”
The fiscal year 2020 town operating budget is set at $13.1 million, of which $10.6 million will come from property taxes. The budget is up 2.4 percent.
The budget increases the tax rate by about 1.34 percent, which will raise taxes for a $250,000 home by about $18, Frank explained.
The approved budget will increase the fire department budgets by 5.3 percent to match a federal grant to fund three weekday, full-time firefighters. It also provides enough money in the public works department’s budget to hire a new highway and path maintenance worker to help manage the growing number of roads and paths in Colchester.
The budget also adds $16,200 to contribute to the Essex Community Justice Center, $20,000 for the Howard Center community social workers and an extra $10,000 for transportation for seniors and persons with disabilities.
The Colchester School District’s budget of $42.59 million for FY20 also gained voter approval at Town Meeting on Tuesday.
“We are extremely thankful and appreciative of the community’s support for the school system,” said CSD superintendent Amy Minor.
She said the school board was able to learn the results of the vote at their meeting Tuesday night and also wanted to express their gratitude to the voters for supporting the budget.
The budget is a 4.98 increase over the previous year, and will create an estimated 1.63 percent tax rate increase, officials said. This will increase taxes for a $300,000 home by about $74, but this will change once school budgets have been approved and the state knows how much money needs to be raised for the Education Fund to pay for the state’s schools.
The budget adds funding for two core middle school teachers, a .5 full-time equivalent English language instructor, a contracted social worker from the Howard Center and a $50,000 boost to the district’s food service program.
The additional middle school teachers will address increasing class sizes, which show projections of 160, 171 and 173 pupils, up from about 150 students in the past.
Selectboard incumbents Tom Mulcahy and Jacki Murphy will both resume their three-year and two-year seats, respectively, as they were uncontested on the ballot. School board members Craig Kieny and Curt Taylor will also resume their respective three-year and two-year term seats as their races were also unopposed.
Frank said there was about a 25 percent voter turnout on Tuesday with about 2,599 out of approximately 10,000 registered voters completing ballots.