PERU – Former Selectman Jim Pulsifer questioned the board Monday about changing the fiscal year and town meeting format.
“Have you really thought through all the ramifications of changing the town’s fiscal year?” Pulsifer wanted to know.
The switch is from Jan. 1 to Dec. 30 to July 1 to June 30, which coincides with the school district. The change means the town and school budgets would be decided at about the same times so tax bills would be based on actual figures not projected school costs.
“If the school budget is the only thing you are changing for, tell the people why you are doing it. Also tell people what you plan to do about how taxes are collected, when they are due and how much will be due,” Pulsifer said.
Board Chairman Bill Hine said, “We have to change because we don’t know how much the school will cost until their budget passes in June.”
Town Clerk Vera Parent said the town would have to borrow money in June to pay for the school costs, which are unknown now.
“There is a six-month difference in our fiscal year, and this has to be made up,” she said.
“You’d better figure out now what you plan to do and tell the people,” Pulsifer said.
Pulsifer also questioned how many items will be on the upcoming town referendum.
“That is still to be determined,” Hine said.
Again Pulsifer asked, “You can’t do all town business on a referendum.”
Hine said, “That’s what we’re thinking.”
Pulsifer replied, “I don’t believe it. You will be doing away with the annual town meeting which is the legislative body of the town.”
Last month, the town split voting on the annual warrant, putting 42 articles before voters at a town meeting on March 18 and the remaining 25 on a referendum ballot voted on a the polls March 21. About 40 residents attended the meeting, while 240 cast ballots at the polls to elect officers and decide mostly money articles.
Selectman Andy St. Pierre asked Monday why so many people showed up to vote when so few came to town meeting.
Pulsifer said it was the contested election for selectmen.
“If you go to all referendum, there will be no way to discuss or change money issues,” he said.
St. Pierre countered, “The referendum represents the people without the intimidation of having to speak at an open meeting. People are more comfortable voting their choices behind a curtain.”
Dennis Thibodeau said, “Some people only came to vote for the officials and didn’t even look at the questions. We have to find a way to get people to come to town meetings.”
Clyde Wardwell questioned why the town had to be more strict than the state on shoreland zoning and why the board was rewriting the ordinance.
“It basically has to do with the definition of basement,” Hine said.
Code Enforcement Officer Jack Plumley said the state has just come up with changes to the ordinance, and he presented a copy of those changes to the board. Some changes will address the basement issue by measuring height of the dwelling and considering the average of three sides and the back. He said the state will also be requiring that all new dwellings have a silt fence whether they are in shoreland or not.
Pulsifer said he could work with Hine this week on the proposed new shoreland amendment.