Budget nudges up past last year

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CANTON — Voters passed 39 of the 40 articles on the town meeting warrant Saturday, but not without considerable discussion.

A budget of $492,786, plus additional money added to two articles, was approved. The total was $5,107 more than last year.

Money for the Rural Community Action Ministry was raised from $1,000 to $1,500 and the River Valley Chamber of Commerce request was amended from a recommended zero to $100. The fire chief stipend was raised from a recommended $2,000 to $3,000, the amount raised last year.

The Budget Committee’s reason for lowering the stipend was that fire Chief Wayne Dube was retiring and a new chief may not have as much experience. Resident Sue Gammon pointed out that it would still be the same amount of work.

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The article bringing the most discussion was the road budget of $90,000. Former Road Commissioner Craig Gammon asked why the town was not doing anything to the roads. He said the $90,000 in the budget wouldn’t allow for any work and would barely cover maintenance.

Last year, according to the Town Report, $85,000 was budgeted for summer roads and $88,000 for winter roads, and Public Works went over budget. This year, the summer and winter roads budgets were combined for a total recommendation of $90,000.

Selectman Scotty Kilbreth said the board was trying to save taxpayers money by keeping the taxes low and had decided not to do any paving this year.

“Delayed maintenance always costs more in the end,” Sue Gammon said. “You need to make sure the roads are fixed.”

Incoming Selectman Donald Hutchins said the town was taking a risk by cutting the road budget. He said Staples Hill was a hazard and maybe the town should apply for grants.

Kilbreth said the state was cutting back on what towns are getting for tree growth, homestead exemptions, excise taxes and schools, and the money was not there.

“You can choose to raise the budget today if you want to,” Kilbreth said.

The article passed with the recommended $90,000 for roads.

Voters also approved a request to change the fiscal year from a calendar year to July 1-June 30.

Administrative Assistant Kathy Hutchins explained the need for the change, saying that when town officials draft the budget, they don’t have the school tax assessments and they have to estimate. With the change, they will know what they can depend on from the state and not have to guess.

“We have to have real numbers to project a budget,” Hutchins said.

Voters discussed the fact that many fire hydrants were no longer in use and maybe the nearly $30,000 request was too much. It was pointed out that the water company was legally bound to spend 25 percent of its budget on hydrants. Donald Hutchins of the Water Department said the department didn’t want to raise rates and would fix the hydrants as funds became available.

The one article that failed asked voters to authorize selectmen to sell town property over Whitney Brook to raise money for dam reconstruction.

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