February 28, 2005 – News at a glance

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Voters grapple with school budgets and property tax rates
Many communities across the state will be voting on their school budgets on Town Meeting Day. These budgets, on average, are increasing at a rate of six and a half percent this year. Governor Jim Douglas says this rate isn’t sustainable and he’s urging voters to scrutinize their local budgets. Many local officials welcome that scrutiny because they feel most of the factors driving up costs are largely out of their control. (VPR)

Winhall to vote on secession from Vermont
A year ago on Town Meeting Day, frustrated taxpayers in Killington voted to pursue leaving Vermont and joining New Hampshire. This year, Winhall will vote on whether to join the secession movement. (VPR)

Then and Now: Washington’s Statehouse Portrait
The Vermont story can be seen and heard throughout the Statehouse. Its in the people and in the laws that are passed. It’s also in the many artifacts that are collected under the golden dome. Today, state curator David Schutz takes us inside “Representatives Hall,” where a giant portrait commands attention and at one point drew the citizens of Montpelier to its rescue. (VPR)

Town Meeting nor’easter
A nor’easter forecast to blanket the state with deep snow could disrupt Town Meeting Day for the second time in four years. The storm is expected to arrive sometime Monday nigth and linger through Wednesday. Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says her office is monitoring the storm and will issue guidelines on Tuesday to municipal officials about town meeting. Among the suggestions are that communities try to keep polls for secret balloting open under all but the most extreme circumstances. She says if only a few people show up for floor meetings, those who attend should come up with a date to reconvene and then adjourn. (AP)

Sheriff’s services
Voters in three Franklin County towns will decide on Tuesday whether to strengthen their police coverage. Enosburg, Richford and Montgomery will consider signing a joint, three-year contract with the sheriff’s department for round-the-clock coverage. (AP)

Campaign finance laws
Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and Attorney General William Sorrell want the Legislature to change the state’s campaign finance laws. They’re suggesting reforms that would better define what constitutes a political action committee. (AP)

Complaint against Supreme Court justice
A group seeking to derail the reappointment of some of Vermont’s Supreme Court justices has filed a complaint against Justice Denise Johnson. The five-page document filed with the Judicial Conduct Board alleges that Johnson misled a panel of lawmakers who unanimously recommended that the Legislature confirm her to a new, six-year term on the high court. (AP)

UVM basketball coach
The University of Vermont men’s basketball team has a new coach. Mike Lonergan, an assistant at the University of Maryland, will succeed 19-year head coach Tom Brennan. (AP)

Cougar sightings
A Lancaster, New Hampshire, woman has joined a growing list of those who say they have seen cougars. Although biologists dispute whether the elusive cats exist in the region, Nori McKenna says she saw one while driving home earlier this month. (AP)

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