FAYETTE — Cars filled the Fayette Central School parking lot and lined the sides of the road as close to 100 residents attended the annual Town Meeting on Wednesday. The meeting lasted nearly three hours, but residents approved all major budget items with few amendments.
The total budget for 2023, which includes county, municipal and school expenses, is $3,003,964. The only major addition to the municipal budget this year was $169,000 being put into the capital reserves account. All other areas saw slight reductions, with debt service in particular down from $153,230, to $57,220.
The overall total is slightly down, by $55,865, from the current fiscal year’s total of $3,059,829. The impact on the mill rate, though, is currently unclear as the town is in the middle of a revaluation.
The chairperson of the Board of Selectmen, Lacy Badeau, who was reelected for an additional term on Tuesday, said it has been difficult for assessors to determine the exact impact the current budget will have on property taxes and that they may not be finished until the end of summer.
The mill rate for the current budget year, which ends June 30, is $18.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Officials also formalized the outcomes of Tuesday’s election, including Badeau and Michael Carlson being elected to the Board of Selectmen for three-year terms and Lana Sturtevant being elected to the School Board Committee with a total of 30 write-in votes. Voters approved a referendum question that limits the town to spending $5,000 annually on maintenance for Starling Hall, a town-owned building and former community hub that is close to 150 years old. The current budget for the building is $3,550.
Residents also rejected two questions that would have provided expanded internet access. The first internet question, asking if residents would approve wireless internet through Redzone Wireless, was shot down with 235 no votes and 188 yes votes. The other internet question, to see if residents would approve an agreement with Axiom for a municipally owned fiber optic service, was also shot down with 265 no votes and 163 yes votes.
Because Fayette is in the middle of a townwide revaluation, one resident motioned to table the entire meeting until the revaluation was completed and accurate tax impacts could be calculated. The motion ultimately failed.
The first half of the Town Meeting focused on the $2,084,783 school budget, which is down just $73 from the previous year’s budget. Town Manager Mark Robinson and Superintendent Tara Morin explained that this is due to increases being offset by transferring $138,500 from the school’s undesignated fund balance and $50,000 from the municipal education capital reserve account. Some at the meeting were concerned that this may result in greater increases during the following year, and when asked how much would be left in the municipal education capital reserve account after the $50,000 was removed, school bookkeeper Crystal Rose said $34,407 would remain.
Major increases offset by the reserve money include a $181,612 increase in regular instruction, a $30,732 increase in student and staff support, and a $30,412 increase in facilities maintenance. Food service went down by $42,111 over the previous year.
While almost all municipal items passed as presented, a few amendments were made. Residents agreed to amend a question asking to transfer boat excise tax money to the 30 Mile River Watershed Association by capping the amount to be transferred at $3,000. No specific amount was listed in the question on the warrant.
The next two questions pertained to Starling Hall, and residents spent a large portion of the meeting debating if the questions should even be included in the warrant since they had voted not to fund maintenance for the building beyond $5,000 annually. The first question about the building, which asked voters if they would approve raising $8,000 to reinstall a basic security system in the building, ultimately passed as written.
The second question, which asked if voters would approve a bond of $500,000 to renovate the building, was amended so it could be included on the November ballot, giving voters more time to look into the project.
Article 39, which asked if voters would approve the $269,000 capital investment plan — including $229,000 for road paving, $25,000 for the fire station parking lot and $15,000 for the town office reserve — was amended so the road paving line could also include maintenance, without changing the amount allocated.
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