July 21, 2019

Guest column – The tax person cometh 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Doug Ferreira

Taxes have increased considerably in small town Vermont as a result of a required reappraisal. Property prices nationwide have plummeted to an all-time low. Many homes have been foreclosed on, causing entire neighborhoods to end up as ghost towns.

However, property in small town Vermont has skyrocketed. With this real estate boom came, you guessed it, higher taxes. If this is not enough, excuse taxes were added to the tax bill in the form of “view tax,” “non-resident tax” and others. I see a line item on my tax bill for water and sewer, but I have a well and my own septic system.

Many Americans received a rebate check to stimulate the economy. However, this small stimulus check didn’t reach the Vermont economy — it was needed to pay for the small town tax increase. Vermont needs tax reform in a big way. Previous assessments worked well in good times, but are not appropriate during this time of recession.

Tax assessments can be made very simple. Take current, realistic value of property and multiply it by the tax rate; this is the tax applied to the property. No additional (excuse) taxes need to be added; they are already in the current price of the property.

Missouri is known as the “Show me state.” Vermont is known as the “Tax me state.”

Some solutions to the small town tax problem:

1.    Raise the state sales tax 2 or 3 cents. I can afford this easier than coming up with several hundred dollars at the end of the year.

2.    Consolidate jobs and job functions where possible.

3.    Control spending.

4.    Look for efficiencies such as using efficient lighting in offices, prepaying for fuel if possible and turning down thermostats.

5.    Put a cap on how much property taxes can increase in one year.

6.    Use prisoners for jobs when possible. Prisoners are used in California to help fight forest fires. Remember, your taxes pay for prisoners’ three hots and a cot.

7.    Education takes up a large share of taxes. All-day preschool could be subsidized by parents to help defray the cost. This would be a bargain at a group rate, and cheaper than daycare.

8.    Boston had a tea party to protest high taxes. Vermont can have a Land Trust Party in the same way. You could live on the land as a squatter and eliminate property taxes.

I have e-mailed and mailed state and local representatives several times and have received no response, which says it all. They must be ashamed or embarrassed to respond. These officials were elected by the people for the people. Hopefully, they are too busy working on realistic tax reform for the people.

“Uncle” Doug Ferreira is a resident of Richmond.
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CVU cross country teams head to N.H. 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008

After another girls’ victory and boys’ high finish in the Burlington High Invitational on Saturday, coach Scott Bliss is taking his Champlain Valley Union High cross country teams into New England competition this weekend.

The runners will set foot in the Manchester, N.H. Invitational on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Once again, it was a closely balanced effort that earned a solid team victory for the girls at Burlington. CVU came in with 43 points, followed by St. Johnsbury Academy with 80 and Essex High with 116. Some 15 teams were in the running.

While South Burlington High’s Carolyn Weaver was once again the first across the finish line, CVU’s parade of togetherness began with Maddie Christian (fifth), Nora McFadden (seventh), Danika Frisbie (eighth), Summer Spillane (11th) and Adrienne DeVita (13th). Less than a minute separated the five runners.

Tony Sulva of the boys team had the Redhawks’ top individual performance, a nifty second place finish to winner Charlie Kline of Essex. Sulva was eight seconds back of Kline’s winning time of 17:02.63.

John Dixon took the 13th spot and Zack Pate finished 19th.

Overall, the boys captured third place behind winning Essex and second place Harwood Union High.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent
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Football team has bye week to regroup from loss 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

At the midway mark in its eight-game schedule, the Champlain Valley Union High football team has a blank on its docket this weekend, a time to heal and prepare for the final four contests of the regular season and possible playoffs.

Courtesy photo
Champlain Valley Union football players Cameron Fitzgerald (from left), Jake Thibault and Konnor Fleming team up on defense during Saturday’s loss at Poultney High.

Head coach Jim Provost said on Sunday the open date is OK, but it would have been better if the Redhawks were coming off a victory rather than last Saturday’s 20-14 loss at Poultney High.

With a 2-2 record, CVU is still very much in the Division III playoff chase, but, as Provost warned, losing Saturday made the job ahead “more difficult.”

“We are 2-2, but we should be 4-0,” the coach said, noting the season-opening 22-20 loss by a late field goal at Oxbow High and Saturday’s defeat, in which Poultney came charging from behind.

The Redhawks took the opening kickoff against the Blue Devils and rolled down the field to chalk up an 8-0 advantage on a rushing six-pointer by sophomore halfback J.P. Benoit and a two-point conversion by Derek Goodwin.

Provost saw that quick score as causing a problem.

“We seemed to relax after that,” said the coach. “We then got pushed around a little. They (Poultney) outdid us physically.”

Primary workhorse for the Blue Devils was Nathan Bourne. Call it the Bourne Ultimatum. The running back rolled up 175 yards and the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard jolt into the end zone with 8:43 remaining in the fourth period. The score snapped a 14-14 deadlock.

“He was real tough,” Provost said of Bourne. “He ran with brute force, low to the ground and was difficult to bring down.”

After falling behind 14-8 by intermission, CVU tied the game in the third quarter on a 30-yard scamper by halfback Tommy Powers, making his way back into the offense following a Sept. 6 ankle injury against Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax.

Benoit, in the meantime, had his third straight 100-yard plus running game with 103 yards.

Provost said the preparation for the second half will be a quest to find more consistent play from the offense — in other words, ball control.

“Our defense is still our lynchpin,” he added. “Saturday, we had no consistency on offense. The defense let down just a little, but the offense should have picked them up.”

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Girls soccer team moves into second half of campaign 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008

Almost a week removed from its last outing, Champlain Valley Union High’s youthful girls soccer team rolled into the second half of its 14-game schedule on Wednesday with a home game against Colchester High.

Then the slate gets busy with a trip to South Burlington High on Friday for a 4:30 p.m. game, followed by a 4 p.m. home contest with Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans on Tuesday.

In getting through the first half of the season with a 5-2 record, the Redhawks scored 13 goals while giving up but five.

The losses were 1-0 battles against the powerhouses — Essex High on Sept. 10, and last Thursday at unbeaten Burlington High. The Seahorses kicked nine shots at CVU goalie Emily Sackett, who knocked out eight of them. Burlington’s defense limited the Redhawks to just a pair of shots on goal.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent
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Soaring Redhawks keep winning field hockey games 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008

Flying high on the fresh breezes of a seven-game winning streak, coach Kate McDonald and her Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team close out the week with home games on Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning.

Burlington High, 3-4 entering the week, comes to Hinesburg at 4 p.m. on Thursday. It will be the lone regular season session between the teams.

Saturday’s 10 a.m. foe will be Colchester High, 1-3-1 as of Monday, a team CVU beat 1-0 at the Lakers’ field on Sept. 11.

The Redhawks’ last time out was Friday, when CVU nipped Essex High 1-0 at home on a late goal by Kelsey Gagnon from a scrum by the Hornet’s net. The second 1-0 victory of the season over Essex (4-3) hiked the CVU season mark to 7-1. The seven victories follow a season-opening loss to Mount Abraham Union.

The shutout was the fifth for Redhawks’ net minder Elizabeth Goddette, who had a single save. CVU, on the other hand, had nine shots on the Essex cage.

Last Wednesday, CVU bussed to East Montpelier and jolted U-32, 3-0, on goals by Gagnon, KK Logan and Katie Longshore. For Logan and Longshore, the tallies were their fifth of the season.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent
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Second straight win puts boys soccer back on track 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

After losing two games in a row for the first time in years, the Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team seems to have its groove back.

Courtesy photo by Sara Blake
Andrew Blake (15), a junior on the Champlain Valley Union High soccer team, goes up for a header in a game against South Burlington earlier this month.

Coach T.J. Mead’s young players open the second half of their schedule Friday night against North Country Union in Newport. They’ll have a two-game win streak in tow and an overall 4-2-1 record.

The latest victory came Monday in Hartford, where the six-time defending Division I champs nipped the Hurricanes 1-0 on a goal by forward Matt Sulva, who was assisted by midfielder Chris Beaton. The game was a makeup of a Sept. 3 contest halted by thunder and lightning.

The Redhawks’ had suffered defeats at the feet of South Burlington High on Sept. 13 and Mount Mansfield Union on Sept. 17, but began their recovery last Friday on the home grass with a 3-0 booting of visiting Colchester High.

Tino Tomasi, Henry Sengle and Beaton produced the scores, while Sulva was an offensive dervish all afternoon deep in the Lakers’ defensive zone.

CVU had 11 shots on the Colchester net with Lakers’ net minder Lucas Pelcher robbing Tomasi and Brayden McKenna.

The loss at the Jericho Center lair of the Mount Mansfield Union High Cougars was CVU’s second dip in three years in those hills.

The last time the Redhawks got nailed twice in a row was likely back in the last century—1998, according to veteran observers.

As sports wisdom has it, if you are going to defeat a young but talented team, best chance to do it is early in the season.

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CVU wants $1 million for auditorium upgrades 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Full of energy and enthusiasm fit for the stage, theatre arts teacher Robin Fawcett thinks it’s time her classroom gets a face-lift — her classroom being the Champlain Valley Union High School auditorium.

Observer photo by Tim Simard
Theatre arts teacher Robin Fawcett stands in the Champlain Valley Union High School auditorium, which school officials want to renovate as early as next year.

She’s not the only one with that opinion. CVU School Board members and administrators agree the 44-year-old auditorium is in dire need of renovation.

Currently, excess cables run throughout the giant room and the facilities lighting is lacking, not to mention sometimes non-functional and unsafe, according to Fawcett. The auditorium has a worn look, she said.

“I think our community deserves walking into a space that reflects the quality of the work and the quality of the learning that goes on here,” Fawcett said.

Sarah Tischler, co-chairwoman of the auditorium fundraising committee, agrees, and said the facility could be much more beneficial to students and the community if it were brought into the 21st century.

“The whole school is so phenomenal and the auditorium is not,” she said. “This needs to change.”

But to do so, CVU will have to raise more than $1 million in private donations.

Life of the auditorium


The CVU auditorium has a long and storied history in regard to renovations. Other than what Fawcett calls “band-aid” repairs and new seats installed in 2005, the auditorium has essentially remained unchanged since it was built in 1964.

According to CVU School Board member Meg Hart-Smith, a new auditorium — separate from the main building — was to be built starting in 2003 as part of the school-wide renovation project, which included a new wing and athletic fields. However, the high costs of the project, exceeding $20 million, was voted down and officials had to come up with a cheaper alternative, which excluded the auditorium.

Last year, the board planned to bring a bond vote to voters in November for auditorium funding, but the Vermont Legislature put a moratorium on state aid for all new school construction projects. Improvements to the auditorium were again put on hold.

With the moratorium continuing into the foreseeable future, the board decided to seek private funds to finish the renovation goal.

Hart-Smith said the total estimate of the renovation is $2.3 million. Of that, more than $800,000 is being allocated from CVU’s capital funds, as well as leftover monies from the last massive renovation. Tischler said the board is hoping to find another $200,000 in public funds as well.

The remaining funds would have to come from private donations, Tischler said, adding the school is looking to raise a little more than $1 million. More than $250,000 has already been raised through fundraisers and donations, she said.

Hart-Smith said the goal is to have all the money raised by the summer of 2009, so construction can begin and be completed in October 2009. The board must first bring the issue to the voters, as they will have to approve the use of the existing public funds. She said the plan is to bring the renovations to the ballot for a March Town Meeting Day vote.

Facility upgrades


The updates will bring the auditorium into the modern age in terms of aesthetics, technology and safety, Fawcett said.

The lighting and wiring systems are inefficient and need to be updated to be “greener” and safer. According to Fawcett, when a bulb burns out now, which is often, a precarious process involving scaffolding, harnesses and ropes is employed to replace the bulb. It’s not the safest process, she said.

The new system would involve high-tension wires that students could walk along, making it a safer process, which CVU Principal Sean McMannon is happy to see.

“We’re currently within code (for safety), but we’re just hanging on,” he said.

Another major change involves the stage area. According to Fawcett, the stage will be completely rebuilt and extended. There will be an added pit for an orchestra. Bands will no longer have to play in the upper reaches of a loft on stage right.

Andy Miskavage, CVU’s music director, said he’s shuffled as many as 20 band members into the tiny space but would welcome a more professional set up.

“The pit puts kids in a more comfortable environment and we all perform better when we’re comfortable,” Miskavage said.

Other changes include air conditioning and a new sound booth. The plans are music to the ears of Fawcett and school administrators.

“I think the community will get every penny back if something happens,” Fawcett said.

To make a donation or to find out more on the CVU Auditorium project, contact your local CVU School Board representative.

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Fire log 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008

Fire in house

On Sept. 2, a fire was reported inside a residence on White Birch Lane at 2:46 p.m. A child in the house threw a match into a wastebasket, which ignited the contents as flames spread up the walls. According to the fire report, several posters were burned and the child quickly threw water on the flames to extinguish the blaze before calling 911. The fire department responded with Cars 1 and 3, Engines 2 and 3, Tower 1 and Hazmat 1, along with 11 firefighters. The responders extinguished the rest of the fire and there were no injuries.

Car accident

A four-door vehicle collided with a Subaru Legacy on Interstate 89 north on Sept. 5 at 8:24 p.m. The accident occurred just north of exit 12. Firefighters responded and disconnected the battery to the Subaru after the accident. The driver of the Subaru was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care by South Burlington rescue. Engine 3, Hazmat 1 and Car 2 responded along with six firefighters.

Recruitment drive continues

The Williston Fire Department’s recruitment drive continues this week. Any resident interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or EMT can stop by the station on Route 2 to meet firefighters and staff. Chief Ken Morton said individuals that join the department would be trained as EMTs, firefighters or both, and be paid for their time. The recruitment drive ends on Oct. 15. Call the Fire Department at 878-5622 for more information.
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Sex offender in Williston 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008

Maxwell B. Mutia, 26, was recently designated as a high risk sex offender by the Vermont Department of Corrections. He has been living in Williston for two years, police say.  According to U.S. Search, his last known address was on St. George Road near Hurricane Lane.

He is described as Asian, 5 feet 3 inches tall, 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

He was convicted on April 25, 2001 of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. In 2003, he was convicted of violating his probation, according to the Vermont Sex Offender Registry.

The supervising agency is the Vermont Department of Corrections in Burlington, which can be reached by calling 863-7350.

More information on Mutia is available online through the Vermont Criminal Information Center’s Sex Offender Registry at www.dps.state.vt.us/cjs/s_registry.htm

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Recipe Corner 9/25/08

Chicken and spice

Sept. 25, 2008
By Ginger Isham

Cold weather means comfort food to warm the body as well as the kitchen. The following recipes are high in antioxidants, fiber and protein. Prepare your chicken the night before to make a hasty, quick, nutritious meal. You may want to double some of the recipes’ ingredients.

Fifteen-minute chicken chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (or to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin (or to taste)
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes (no salt)
1 can (15 ounces) black, kidney or red beans (no salt)
1 small can green chilies, minced
1 cup corn, fresh, frozen or canned
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Sauté chicken in oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Stir in cumin and chili powder to coat chicken. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and heat through.

In-a-hurry chicken curry
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3/4 pound), cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons curry (or to taste)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 cup fat-free and reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dried cherries or raisins
1 cup drained pineapple chunks
hot red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
Heat oil over medium heat and add chicken and onion, sauté 3 minutes. Add curry powder, stir and sauté another 2 minutes. Blend corn starch with chicken broth and add to chicken. Add cherries or raisins and cook until sauce is bubbly. Add pineapple and pepper flakes. Simmer until all is heated through. Serve with brown rice.

Chicken curry with apples
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into serving pieces
3 medium Granny Smith apples or other tart apples, cored and chopped
2 large onions, sliced thin or chopped
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup raisins
5 cups chicken broth, fat-free and low-sodium
2 cups regular brown rice, uncooked (do not use instant)
Salt and pepper chicken and brown in oil. Remove and keep warm. Add to pan the apples, onions, garlic, curry and cumin, and sauté 5 minutes. Add broth and raisins. Bring to boil and add rice and chicken and cover pan and simmer over low heat for 45 to 60 minutes. Serve with chopped peanuts or toasted coconut.

Ginger Isham was the co-owner of Maple Grove Farm Bed & Breakfast in Williston, a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road where she still lives.

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