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Another record year for Peru budget?
PERU- For more than 90 minutes last Tuesday night a little more than a dozen concerned citizens voiced their opinions and heard from selectmen in regards to the 29-article referendum ballot in the total of $697,401.19 that they will be voting on in June.
Last June, the town was divided and approved a 19-percent increase in the budget and this year that budget will see a slight drop of roughly 0.9 percent (excluding school and county assessments).
Going into the meeting, several people showed concern for the fire department budget, the upkeep of the former elementary school, employee health care and benefits.
Resident Dicky Powell expressed his concern for why the fire department budget wasn't broken down more, as in year's past. And, Danny Wing requested an explanation why it was a higher amount than that of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Selectman Tim Holland rebutted, stating that it just looks higher due to the entire budget being included in one article.
Another topic of discussion was why, for the last two years, has the former elementary building been funded by the townspeople, but there is still no tenant.
Chairman Laurieann Milligan noted that in the current market, it's not feasible. Selectman Holland added that the town doesn't have the money to ready the building for sale.
As for the employee health care and benefit question, resident Bill Hine noted, “The gold-plated health coverage offered to town employees needs to be scrutinized in these tough economic times.”
Currently the town offers a free health policy to two employees. If the town approves the budget, as it currently stands, there will be five employees receiving the benefit with no deductible or premium being paid by them, thus the town foots the entire bill.
The Concerned Citizens Group of the town is hoping that more residents will reconsider the articles before voting in order to save a significant amount of money.
Found on the Concerned Citizens website, the group states, “Many voters are concerned that if they check NO on the ballot, that the town will not have operating monies to work with. What actually happens is: Any article voted down forces the current budget back to 80 percent of the previous year's budget. Thus, a NO vote effectively will invalidate the LD1 increase from last year.”
“The selectmen did a good job of fielding questions,” noted Hine. “One question that still remains is what our mil rate will be if the budget is passed. That is something that can be figured before the vote to better educate citizens. I'm puzzled as to why the town can't have that information.”
In another issue, Town Clerk Vera Parent brought forth the information that there is currently $260,000 in unpaid taxes in the town.
Following the meeting, Hine expressed his concern for not raising the question during the meeting.
“These folks need to be held accountable and not ride on the shirt tales of the willing tax payers. There is a nationwide trend toward strategic defaults,” noted Hine. “Borrowers stop paying their mortgage with the knowledge that it will likely be two or three years before they need to worry about foreclosure. They essentially live rent-free during that time. My question, are some people beginning to feel the impact from property taxes? The moral imperative to stay current is slowly dissolving, I fear.”