Frequently Asked Questions

A number of questions have come to staff or the selectboard over the past few weeks leading up to Town Meeting Day 2024.  In order to increase transparency and provide accurate information the Selectboard asked the staff to put together answers to the most common questions they’ve heard.  

Question: Who determines what type of Fire Trucks to buy?

Planning for the new engine began several years ago and was identified in the Town’s Capital Program and Budget. Over a year ago, the Fairfax Fire Department formed a committee consisting of firefighters, officers, and the chief to determine what type of engine would fit current and future needs and evaluated current trucks.  The committee developed a list of specifications that became a package that was put out for public bidding to ensure a competitive price. Commercial and custom chassis were considered with a decision made by the committee to go with custom as it was the best fit for the department’s needs as our go-to first attack truck.The bids from three different manufacturers were reviewed by the committee with cost being one of the factors as well as build time, essential specs, and if there is a certified dealer a reasonable distance from us for when the truck needs to be serviced.  The committee chose Pierce Manufacturing’s Saber Engine for $691,000 with a mid 2025 delivery date as the least expensive bid that has all the essential “must have” specs.


Question: How has the Town bought truck in the past?

The Town voted in 2002 and in 2009 to purchase fire trucks but has since purchased trucks with short-term loans that do not require bond votes. Fire trucks purchased in 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2021 were done so without votes. These trucks were also decided upon by the Fire Department.


Question: What would the General Reserve Fund do?

Answer: The Town must ask the voters to establish savings account: a reserve fund. No money is requested for the account. It is hoped that any extra money from a budget surplus or unbudgeted revenue could gradually build up the savings account. Financial experts advise that towns should have between 5% of its budget and 3 months of operating costs on hand. The Town does not have savings for this or for other disasters that may occur. The Town also pays banks to borrow money in anticipation of taxes as it has operating costs incurred prior to tax installment payments. The hope is to have the town borrow from itself in the future instead of having to pay a bank interest. Should a General Reserve Fund be approved, the Selectboard would work to create a policy to govern the use of the fund. As with other policies, this would be developed at public meetings of the Board and subject to public input and discussion. It is anticipated that it would take years for a reserve fund to reach the minimum amounts recommended.

Question: How is the budget built, how can residents get engaged in the process?

Answer:  Each year the Selectboard meets to develop a budget to put before voters to run our community in a manner that balances our wants, needs and ability to pay.  To develop a budget, each Department puts together a draft budget with the Town Manager.  The Town Manager then presents the first draft budget to the Selectboard in a public meeting.  Staff are requested to attend the budget meetings to make their requests to the Board and provide explanations for expenditures.

This year, all of the budget meetings were held at broadcast and recorded Selectboard meetings in an effort to make this process accessible. Generally the Selectboard has included all department requests in the budget. If additional spending is desired by the community, the most effective way is to ask during the budgeting process. Overspending after a budget is passed causes a deficit and increase in taxes or spending cuts in the next fiscal year.

Once a budget is approved by the voters, the town must then follow the budget and is audited by an independent auditing firm to note discrepancies.


Question: How has the Town performed financially the last few years?

Answer: For several years, the town exceeded budgeted expenses and ran deficits. In FY22 and FY23 property tax bills in Fairfax had a “deficit retirement” line to pay for this debt.  The majority of overspending was within the Highway Department. The FY22 and FY23 audits note equipment that was purchased out of turn. Contracts for paving, special projects, and others were exceeded without change orders.

The community has voiced concerns about overspending and the Selectboard worked with staff to ensure that FY23 ended the year without a deficit. This was difficult due to $382,737 in overspending in the highway department alone. A spending freeze was enacted in the spring of 2023 that restricted spending for all departments. This impacted highway projects and all other program areas from recreation to cemeteries. The FY23 budget ended without a deficit and on budget.


Highway Budget

Highway Actual




















Total Expenditure Budget

Total Expenditure Actual



















At Town Meeting, 2023, a reserve fund was approved for capital projects. This reserve fund was intended to help pay for larger projects such as the Rood Mill bridge but can also serve as an emergency reserve in the future.

Question: It feels like the Town did less in the last year than in prior years.

Answer: Projects were reduced in the spring of 2023 due to a town-wide spending freeze. This freeze was due to a $382,737 overage in the highway department. The July 1st new fiscal year enabled new spending but the flood of July 10th set the town back considerably as roads were flooded and repair work needed. Due to efforts of the manager and town staff, the Town will receive 100% reimbursement for the FEMA costs from this flood event.

A reserve fund was established on July 1, 2023 after receiving approval from the voters at Town Meeting 2023. This will allow for larger multi-year projects separate from the annual budget. In order to offset the cost of starting this new reserve fund, the Selectboard chose to take a break from paving in FY24. The major planned project of FY24 was the Rood Mill bridge replacement.

Regular planned maintenance work took place in the fall of 2023. Persistent wet conditions limited the Town’s ability to grade roads. Roads need to dry out to grade or conditions can be made worse. The Town has conducted grading continually but has fought mud season during the winter. There was also a flooding event on December 18th that destroyed a portion of Fletcher Road and caused other roads to flood again. The continual damage to Fairfax roads has been unique to Franklin County due to the proximity of the Lamoille, but not to other adjacent towns that are also fighting similar conditions.

FY24 also saw a new DPW Crew. Veterans from the State and other towns were added. Staff was doubled up during the fall as new crew were brought on and retiring crew were retained to help train. New approaches and material were evaluated. Sand was competitively bid and material evaluated for quality. The crew evaluated sand as well as wanted to explore trucking their own material. The crew decided to try a new sand supplier and have it trucked in. The new sand mix may assist with persistent concerns from the community on tire punctures from gravel that was previously mixed with sand.

Equipment and truck maintenance also took priority in FY24. All of the trucks and equipment were gone through and maintenance plans developed. Dealer service was performed as well as many in-house repairs. Many safety improvements were made to the Town garage and equipment. This included electrical work at the garage, flagger training, a sign package for flagging paid from a grant, moving an eye wash station, and others. No limits have been placed on maintenance or material requests from the department.

Question: There has been a lot of transition at the Town over the past few years, particularly the Highway Department, are employees happy to work for the Town?

The Selectboard and Town Manager have placed employee retention as a high priority and have taken a number of concrete steps to improve it over the past few years.  In the spirit of transparency, our Highway Department has experienced its third resignation in the past month.  Thankfully, Don Pigeon, Pat Pigeon, and Leon Kinsley have stepped up to help us and Gerry Dubois out.  The Town of Fairfax has taken a number of steps to improve culture and increase employee satisfaction.

  • In 2021, an employee compensation study was conducted to ensure that the Town understood its position and remained competitive in attracting and retaining employees. Gallagher and Flynn performed the study and the Board agreed to implement improvements to employee compensation as part of building the FY22 and FY23 budgets.
  • The Town has hired an HR consultant to support employees and answer questions and concerns.
  • A committee was formed with Selectboard, employees and the Town Manager and a revised personnel policy adopted in 2022.
  • Disability and life insurance were added as new benefits and combined time off provided.
  • The Town also has an Employee Assistance Program for counseling, financial, and legal advice.
  • Recently, an anonymous employee satisfaction survey was conducted. The survey was generally positive and also provided some ideas for improvement. The Selectboard and the Town Manager will be working together to identify next steps.

The Town will continue to listen to employees and do what is necessary to improve the wellbeing of our staff. 

Question: What is the Selectboard’s role in a Town Manager form of government?

Answer: In the Town Manager form of Government the selectboard sets policy direction and the staff works to achieve it.  In the past few years, selectboard has completely reviewed the Town’s policies. Existing policies were revisited and new policies created. This included adopting a comprehensive purchasing policy, a fraud prevention policy, a capital disposition policy, conflict of interest policy, procedural rules for the Selectboard, and the personnel policy (employee handbook). These policies provide the framework for town operations and direction for the Board and staff. The purchasing policy helps to ensure that the Town receives competitive pricing and that proper accounting and budgets are followed. The capital disposition policy requires that vehicles and other equipment be made available for the community to bid on. This also helps the Town get back value from assets and reduce Town costs. The fraud prevention policy requires that irregularities are looked into by impartial outside parties to protect the community and the Town’s assets. The personnel policy governs everything from time off for employees to safety.  Many of these policies were evaluated by subcommittees including the personnel policy.

The personnel policy was adopted by the Selectboard after being developed by a committee that included Selectboard town employees, and the Town Manager. Benefits were also reviewed and expanded.

Policies are adopted at Selectboard meetings. All policies are now published on the Town’s website as well as distributed to employees. The Selectboard has also begun revisiting ordinances.

Question: I’ve heard about a controversy around a Town truck?  What is going on with that?

Answer: The Town of Fairfax adopted a policy for capital equipment disposition in 2022. This policy provides that vehicles should be offered to the community by a public bid process. This provides equity of opportunity and also helps the Town receive revenue that it can put to offset the cost of new equipment. Prior to the adoption of the policy, the public bid process was used with the sale of a sidewalk tractor in 2021.

As part of the impact fee update and annual audit, a capital equipment inventory was performed on January 26, 2024. This inventory is required by policy every other year to protect taxpayer assets. The inventory determined that a town truck was not accounted for.  Current staff in the highway department did not know what happened to the truck. As required the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) was requested to investigate on January 29, 2024 and a report made to the auditors subsequently as required by the Fraud Prevention Policy. No charges have been made and the investigation is ongoing. The Selectboard and Town Manager have been advised by the Town lawyer from commenting on the matter beyond this until and investigation is completed. 


Question: When did Fairfax move to a Town Manager form of government and what is the Town Manager’s job?

Answer: Town Meeting 2017 included article three: “Shall the registered voters of the Town of Fairfax vote to take advantage of the provisions of Chapter 37 of Title 24 V.S.A. §1241 if the Vermont Statutes Annotated and authorize the Select Board to employ a Town Manager?” The vote was approved 407 to 325.  The Town transitioned from having the Selectboard run the day to day operations to a hired manager with the first manager, Brad Docheff, in 2018. Sarah Hadd was hired as the second manager in 2021. The position has a job description as do all other hired town positions.

Also on the 2017 ballot was a vote to move to a hired assessor from elected listers. Town Meeting 2019 saw a vote to appoint the clerk and treasurer (hired positions instead of voted in positions).  This transition to hired staff from volunteer or elected positions running the town came at a time where the town’s population doubled and changed from a smaller town to a larger one in terms of people, services, and budget. More oversight is now required and the work of town government more complex.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns Handbook of Town Officers provides the following description for town manager’s duties:

“In towns that have adopted the town manager form of government, the town manager is the primary administrator of the local government and is charged with the general supervision of the affairs of the town. 24 V.S.A. § 1235. The manager oversees personnel, makes purchases for the town, maintains the town buildings, and manages the administrative tasks that are ordinarily dealt with by the selectboard. The manager has much independent authority but is subject to the supervision and control of the selectboard.

  • Selection. The manager is not a political appointee, and as such must be selected based on his or her qualifications and not because of his or her political beliefs. 24 V.S.A. § 1233.
  • Removal. The manager holds office at the will of the selectboard, and may be removed at any time, for cause, by majority vote of the board. 24 V.S.A. § 1233.
  • Compensation. The manager’s compensation is set by the selectboard unless otherwise voted by the electorate. 24 V.S.A. § 1239.
  • Duties. The manager must perform all duties not committed to the care of a particular officer and those duties conferred by law on the selectboard, except for certain enumerated functions described later in this chapter. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(1), (2). In addition, the manager has the authority to perform the following functions:
  1. Purchasing Agent. The manager purchases supplies for every department of the town over which the manager has control. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(3).
  2. Building Supervision. The manager must supervise the management and repair of all town buildings, manage town school district buildings upon request of the school directors, and must oversee all new building done by the town or school unless otherwise specially voted. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(4).
  3. Road Commissioner. The manager shall perform all duties ordinarily conferred upon the road commissioner. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(5). Accounting. The manager must do the accounting for all town departments and for the school district, upon request of the school directors. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(7).
  4. The manager must supervise all special appropriations of the town unless otherwise voted. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(8).
  5. Supervision of Specific Matters. The manager shall supervise and have control over the police and fire departments, municipal licenses, the system of sewers and drainage, street lighting, highways and bridges, sprinkling of streets, and maintenance of parks and playgrounds. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(9).
  6. Tax Collection. The manager shall collect current and delinquent taxes for the town if the town so votes. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(10).

Power and Authority. The manager is responsible for the general supervision of the affairs of the town. He or she is the administrative head of all departments and is responsible for all duties not otherwise conferred upon another town officer. 24 V.S.A. §§ 1235, 1236(1). In addition, the manager must assist the selectboard and may perform all duties committed to the selectboard except for the following:

  • Preparing the tax bill.
  • Signing orders on the general fund of the town other than orders for poor relief. • Calling special or annual town meetings.
  • Laying out highways.
  • Establishing and laying out public parks.
  • Making assessments.
  • Awarding damages.
  • Acting as a member of the board of civil authority.
  • Filling vacancies. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(2).

The manager is in charge of the general administration of the town. He or she is the general purchasing agent for the town and purchases supplies for every department under his or her control. The manager may also buy supplies for departments not under his or her control and for the school district upon proper requisition by the departments or the school directors. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(3). The manager is in charge of all town buildings and supervises their maintenance and repairs. The manager may have the same authority over school buildings upon request of the school directors,  and may oversee all building done by the school district or town, unless otherwise specially voted. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(4). The manager may supervise and expend all special appropriations of the town as if it were a separate department of the town, unless otherwise voted by the town. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(8). The manager is also charged with the general accounting for the town and the town school district, upon request of the directors. This role does not supersede the authority of the town and school treasurer but contemplates that the manager will work with the treasurer for access to the records so that the manager can keep accurate accounts of all departments of the town. 24 V.S.A. § 1236(7). Note that the statutes specifically provide the manager with access to all town books and papers for information necessary for the proper performance of his or her duties. 24 V.S.A. § 1237. The manager has charge and control of all departments and is specifically granted authority to supervise the police and fire departments, including setting salaries and appointing and removing officers and employees.”


Question:  What is going on with the Fire Department?

Answer: In March of 2022 the Fire Department requested that the Selectboard evaluate the structure and leadership of the department. A committee was formed with a Board member, firefighter, and resident that is a chief in another community. Extensive input from the department led to the recommendation for a full-time chief and the elimination of the existing full-time fire position (battalion chief under the elected chief). The position was publicly advertised and Micah Genzlinger was selected as Fire Chief in a competitive process that included review and input from the Department. The Department has had several successes in the past year with the approval of an addition to the Station that will go to construction this summer, the ordering of a replacement for Engine One, and an AFG grant for over $200,000 that replaced all of the self-contained breathing apparatus. The roster for the department has grown to 28 active members. To be an active member, regular training and participation is required to ensure safety. Lifetime members are not always active members however are still welcomed at the station when active members are there.

Question: I noticed that last year's tax bill allowed for four installments and not three, why  is that?

Answer: The Selectboard voted in FY23 to include a fourth installment in FY24. This installment in August 2023 was to reduce the money the town needs to borrow in anticipation of taxes.  This has saved taxpayers nearly $20,000 so far. The Town offers four installments, but taxes are still not due until the last one in May. Tax payers may continue to pay as frequently as they like so long as the entirety of the tax bill is paid by the last installment in May.

Question: What are impact fees and why are they going up?

Answer: There are few non-tax revenues that a town can collect. User fees such as permit fees offer a way to place the cost of a service on those that use the service. Impact fees can be used by a town to offset the cost of new or expanded services caused by new residents. Impact fees are paid at the time of permit issuance for new homes. The Town has been working on updating its fees, including its impact fees, to ensure that the fees are a fair reflection of the cost of services and in line with adjacent communities.  Proposed impact fees provide a way to charge new residents for a proportional share of the cost of equipment, trucks, and facilities that existing taxpayers have already paid for. Impact fees can be used to help purchase new equipment and expand facilities and services. A March 4th hearing has been warned for the consideration of the new fees and the impact fee study and tables placed online.

Question:  Why did we hire a Public Works Director and what is their role?

Answer: In the fall of 2022, the Town Treasurer retired and the Utility Manager assumed this position. It was not feasible for the Utility Manager to maintain both positions. The Highway Supervisor retired in April 2023 and recommended that the paperwork and financial management of the department be separated from the position and the poor fiscal management of the department made it clear further oversight was required. The Utility Manager position was reconfigured to take on the paperwork and grant management portion of the Highway Supervisor and renamed the Public Works Director. This was not an addition to the number of positions or employees in the town. The position is paid from both the utility salary and the highway salary. Matt Guerino was hired at the end of September 2023 for this position. Since his hire, he has been instrumental in obtaining grants that exceed the salary amount for this position with two significant grants. The first is a lead inventory project that is required to be completed by the State for the Town’s utility. Funds are made available through the State’s SRF program as forgivable loans (requires successful completion). The amount is for $27,450. The second is for the reimbursement of Fletcher Road repairs. This is money which will be directed to the Town from the State (FHWA Emergency Relief program). This program will make the Town financially whole for the costs associated with fully restoring the road. The road has been repaired but the pavement will not be able to occur until later this spring. At this time, the money the Town will receive is in excess of $153,000. We anticipate that this will be in excess of $180,000 in total once paving is complete. These were two projects that were required of the town that would have had to be completed regardless of funding; receiving grants reduces the need to pay for such projects with property tax revenue.