MONMOUTH – Much of the discussion at the selectmen’s meeting Wednesday focused on a plan to cut budgets and what should be done when a department goes over budget.

There was heated discussion about a proposal to require town departments to cut 10 percent of their budgets. The measure would be used as insurance against November’s statewide tax cap referendum. The 10 percent savings would be put into a reserve account, which could help pay expenses if the referendum is passed.

The plan came just weeks after town residents voted on budgets at the annual town meeting. It produced heated dialogue from some selectmen and residents.

Some residents called the town meeting an “implicit contract” and asked why town meeting decisions should be altered. Supporters of the plan argued that the town should show it is willing to trim some areas. Otherwise, voters might choose to pass the referendum question, which could cut budgets by as much as 50 percent.

No decision has yet been made on the proposal.

Selectman Caroline Allen asked whether selectmen should vote on expenditures that exceed the budget throughout the year. The town recently purchased a new heating system and roof, and it faces other unexpected costs throughout the year.

“The gas budget is way over because of the price of gas,” Town Manager Steve Dyer said. He asked whether selectmen should vote on every single additional purchase. He noted that the town has a good track record.

“Seven or eight of the 10 years we’ve operated in the black,” he said.

In other business, selectmen approved a proposal by local students to build a flower museum on public property, a $174,000 bid by R.C. and Sons for summer paving projects, and a plan to purchase fire equipment.

The fire equipment includes a cascade system, a compressor, and a self-contained breathing apparatus. The total outfit will cost about $147,000. Ninety percent of the funding will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the other 10 percent will be drawn from the town’s capital improvements budget.

Turnout at the meeting exceeded the Town Office meeting room’s capacity, so selectmen moved the meeting down the road to the fire station. They decided that until further notice, all selectmen’s meetings will be held at the fire station.

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