GREENE – About a third of the 129 voters at Saturday’s annual town meeting objected to higher spending in an attempt to stave off higher taxes.

“The taxpayers are going to take control of the budget in this town,” said Ron Gauthier, who accused selectmen of putting themselves above the people.

An article requesting $195,760 for administrative wages and benefits was debated for nearly an hour and a half. At issue was an increase in the salary and benefits package for Town Manager Stephen Eldridge from a maximum of $58,500 last year to $65,610.

Sheldon Bubier objected to the increase.

“We get what we pay for,” Selectman Timothy Doyle said, referring to grant monies Eldridge has obtained for the town. “We’ve had $32,000-town managers and we’ve gotten $32,000 worth of work,” he said.

Several ballot votes on amendments failed before a motion by Doyle to appropriate $192,388, allowing for the town to pay for an increase in the cost of Eldridge’s insurance with no pay hike was approved.

“I really think the manager shouldn’t walk away from here with a cut in pay,” Doyle said.

Voters also rejected $93,000 to replace a 1985 truck for the Public Works Department.

The 5 percent discount for taxpayers paying in full by July 28 will continue. Several people opted to support a 2 percent discount.

“You’re giving a break to the people who can afford to pay their taxes within 30 days and you’re penalizing the people who cannot afford to,” said Brenda Theriault. She added that the 5 percent discount adds to the size of the mill rate and puts a burden on people on fixed incomes.

The fiscal year 2004 budget was reduced to $1,620,205, down $175,020 from the selectmen’s recommendation of $1,795,225. This year’s budget reflects a reduction of $166,948 from 2003’s $1,787,153.

Depending on what the SAD 52 board does with its budget in June, Greene’s tax rate is expected to increase between $1.30 and $1.60. The current tax rate is $18.30.

Voters approved an article authorizing an ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses as a precautionary measure to restrict where and what types of adult businesses could open in Greene.

Just 4.76 percent of Greene’s 2,715 registered voters attended the nearly seven-hour meeting.


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