More in News
Public Works, Police budgets scrutinized
DIXFIELD- Citizens arriving for the annual town meeting on Thursday night took out their tax-commitment aggressions on the public works and police departments. Just under 100 citizens turned out to make their vote count.
The meeting began with newly-elected town manager, Linda Pagels-Wentworth welcoming those present and swearing in Dave Duguay as moderator. The floor was then handed over to Selectman Robert Withrow to present Paul and Patty Jones with the Distinguished Citizens of the Year award, as well as a third being presented to Kip Fletcher, who was not present, by Selectman Hart Daley.
Moderator Duguay stated the rules of the meeting and things got underway.
Citizens re-elected Aaron Perreault and Cathy Dorion to the finance committee until their terms expire in 2016 and with one vacant seat and no nomination made, the third will remain vacant.
The town voted to keep Joanne Weston on as the Ione Harlow Scholarship committee member and unanimously voted to keep Gena Cloutier, Margaret Cannon and Carol Bernard on as the Ludden Memorial Library trustees.
Sonja Fuller was re-elected for three years to the water advisory board.
Citizens then tried to amend when their first and second half taxes were due, but after much discussion, they voted to keep with September and April.
The town also voted to establish a 4-percent rate of interest on delinquent taxes and with the state requiring a 3-percent split between rate of interest and interest for overpayment, the town adopted a 1-percent rate on overpayments.
Moving on to the department budgets, Dan McKay noted that he wanted to see a significant drop in the personnel benefits, as the executive department budget was “too bloated” at $310,953 as selectmen recommended. After much discussion on how to save, the town approved the selectmen-recommended amount, when they could have gone with the finance committee amount of $305,343.
Over the next 90 minutes, citizens hashed out the work of the police force. Chief Richard Pickett was asked if he could still operate if they cut his budget from $322,498 down to $275,000.
Chief Pickett noted, “I’ll play the hand that’s dealt me, but you will lose one full time officer if you take $25,000 from our budget. We’re providing a good service to the town and there’s no way I can keep that level of service without that full budget. I’ve already cut away the meat and I’m down to the bone.”
Citizens tossed around the idea of having county coverage for their town, tried amending the article down to $275,000, back up to $280,000, back down to $250,000; but in the end, there was enough support for the department that citizens passed the original budget of $322,498 by a vote of 45-34.
The other article of contention was that of the public works department with selectmen and finance committee recommending $509,867. There were many questions about carry-over funds and what the duties of the department were, but after another hour of discussion, they town approved the recommendation.
The rest of the warrant articles passed without too much rebuttal. With the following being approved:
Fire Department: $88,000 (up from $86,497 in 2013)
Ludden Memorial Library: $123,373 (up from $120,030 in 2013)
Boards, Committees & Misc. Exp.: $3,580 (down from $5,056)
Public Safety & Health: $180,352 (down from $181,342 in 2013)
Code Enforcement: $16,265 (same as 2013)
Recreation: $12,500 (down from $13,000 in 2013)
Grounds: $23,850 (up from $16,225 in 2013 due to the town agreeing to contract services out)
Insurances & Benefits: $31,647 (up from $28,707 in 2013)
Social Services: $4,601 (same as 2013)
Regional Expenses: $165,802 (up from $165,558 in 2013)
Miscellaneous Funding: $3,775 (up from $3,691 in 2013)
Reserve Funds: $219,705 (up from $168,000 in 2013)
Debt Service: $47,943 (down from $58,446 in 2013)
General Assistance: $8,000 (same as 2013)
The meeting was adjourned about 10:30 p.m. The next act of business for the town will be that of the June 11 referendum vote. Polls will be open at the Swasey-Torrey Legion Hall from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.