MONMOUTH – Residents approved every article but one at a referendum on the town budget, turning down the Police Department request by two votes Tuesday.

Town Manager Curtis Lunt said Wednesday he wasn’t sure why that single item failed.

During three public hearings in advance of the vote, “We didn’t have any comments about the police budget at all,” he said. “We’ll try to figure that out as they go forward.”

The final vote was 275 in favor, 277 against for the law enforcement request of $278,140.39, which had been smaller than last year. Lunt said that since voters approved a measure that lets departments operate on last year’s budget until a new one is passed, there’s no immediate risk to services.

Residents approved the rest of the articles for $2.5 million, a small decrease from last year. Lunt said they’d tried to offer a “plain jane vanilla” budget that kept expenses in check.

Included in that amount:

• $130,800 for capital improvements such as $50,000 for Fire Department equipment and $30,000 for Cumston Hall repair.

• $55,716 for street lights and hydrant rentals.

• $720,021 for general administration.

As part of the referendum, Harold Jones III won a three-year term as selectman and Nancy Ludewig won a three-year term as a Cumston Library Trustee.

The daylong ballot voting at the Cumston Library ended at 8 p.m. Deputy Town Clerk Carrie Ivey said turnout was good for a municipal election, 567 voters, out of some 3,200 registered voters.

Lunt said one or more public hearings are likely to discuss the police budget with a new referendum vote likely in July. It should be settled in time, he said, for selectmen to set a new tax rate in August. The current rate is $11.40.


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