Buswell, a former selectboard member who is challenging Terk for a two-year seat on the board, said he was looking forward to returning to the board to “finish a couple things I didn’t get finished before.”
Buswell said he’d bring balance to the board. “As you all know, I think outside the box,” he said. “I’m a listener, and then I decide where to go.”
Terk said the board has made a number of accomplishments during his tenure, including the installation of high speed Internet in East Dover, a fiber-optic connection to the school and library, and other telecommunications improvements. “We need to keep maintaining Dover as a place people want to live, not just visit,” he said. “People should come here and say ‘This looks like a great place to live and a great place to work.’”
Dover resident Randy Capitani asked the candidates about their priorities over the two-year term. Buswell listed affordability as a top priority. “We’re losing the town, we’re losing the base,” he said. “People we’ve known for 20 years can’t afford to live here anymore. We’ve got to do something about the taxes in Dover. If we don’t, we’re not going to have the town of Dover.”
Buswell said he also hoped to institute more cross-training of town employees for jobs other than their regular duties. “The town has to have people who can do other things in town if something happens,” he said. He also said the board should “fine-tune” the Internet services in town to make sure as many people as possible have access.
Terk said it is important to focus on the continued development of infrastructure through economic development. “We need to continue to improve on what’s available for residents and visitors,” he said. “People come to this area for recreation.”
Terk also said the selectboard must be vigilant regarding proposed legislation that could affect education and education funding. “There is a lot of discussion about school consolidation, eliminating supervisory unions, and putting mandates on schools that have the potential to be problematic for the great school we have,” he said. “That’s not necessarily an easy battle to fight, we don’t have a lot of control. We need to work with our legislators to sway the impact of what’s done at the state level.”
School board member Laura Sibilia asked the candidates to name their top accomplishment on the board. “I would say the strides we’ve made in economic development,” Terk said. “The improvements we’ve made to the town park, Internet access, making the town a better place to live and visit.”
Buswell said one of the biggest accomplishments during his tenure on the board was the town’s recovery from Tropical Storm Irene. “Three days after I was elected, we declared a town emergency,” he said. “At that time, every board member was in agreement with each other, we all worked for the betterment of the town of Dover, and we recovered quickly and had a fantastic fall foliage season that year.”
Moderator Sarah Shippee asked the candidates to discuss the potential for spending cuts to lower taxes. “What portion of the municipal budget has the most flexibility, the most potential for cuts?” she asked.
Buswell said rising taxes in Dover aren’t due to municipal spending, but to increases in the statewide property tax. “It’s on the school side,” he said. “It’s out of (the school board’s) control, that’s on the state. With any cuts you could make on the municipal side, you’d be looking at 1 or 2 cents on the tax rate.”
Terk agreed there wasn’t “a lot of fat” in the municipal budget, but he said the selectboard looks for savings as part of the budget process. He noted that the town has switched from funding a health savings account (HAS) to cover employees’ insurance deductibles to a health reimbursement account (HRA).
Terk said the move had the potential to save money while still providing funding of deductibles for employees and their families.
“That’s one area where we worked to try to save money, but the reality is, costs keep going up and people need to be compensated fairly,” he said. “Our goal is to maintain a level tax rate for taxpayers, so their tax bills don’t vary greatly from year to year.”