MEXICO — Residents voted 10-1 during a special town meeting Tuesday evening to allow the town to allocate $150,000 from the undesignated fund balance to reduce the 2014-15 tax commitment.

The residents also voted to allow the town to use an additional $150,000 from the same balance to reduce the town’s debt service budget.

Prior to the vote, Town Manager John Madigan said that by using the $150,000, the town’s mill rate would rise from 25 to 26.

“Without using that $150,000 to reduce the tax commitment, the mill rate would probably be hovering close to 30,” Madigan added.

Selectman Albert Aniel said that it was “disappointing to see that the town is experiencing another tax hike.”

“Last year, a group of us urged people to shoot down the budget, but the voters wanted the budget the way it was,” Aniel said. “There’s not much more that we can do. Our hands are tied.”

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Selectman Byron Ouellette said that the town’s mill rate and taxes will continue to climb if the budget is not reduced, and that the board had to do something about it.

“If the town doesn’t get leadership from the Board of Selectmen, it confuses people,” Ouellette said. “There’s a split in what the board wants to do right now. I believe that we all ought to get on the same page.”

Resident George Byam replied, “I think you underestimate the people in this town, Byron. The budget was put in front of the people, and a majority of the people voted it through. Not everybody feels the same as you.”

Byam attempted to move the vote, which failed to pass by an overwhelming margin.

Ouellette said that “the percentage of people who voted for the tax cap last year was over 60 percent, and that the margin for the budget vote was a lot closer.”

“When people voted through the tax cap, they wanted tax relief, and we let them down because we didn’t present a budget that was at the level they wished,” Ouellette said.

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“The tax cap asked us to cut our budget by $350,000,” Madigan replied. “That would mean no library and no recreation center, and even with those two things, that only brings us to $120,000. I don’t know how you could’ve come up with anything else to cut.”

Madigan added that the town has “very little options” to cut from, and that he did “everything he could to cut.”

“The point is, you can’t simply cut 10 percent from each department,” Madigan said. “It just doesn’t work that way. The budget went before the people, and they chose to approve it.”

Ouellette said, “You need to be the leader, John. You need to be able to present the people with a budget, even if it means some services might be cut. You’re afraid that if you gave them the options, they might approve it. You haven’t given them the opportunity to do so.”

“When I first was hired in Mexico, I said that it’s not my job to cut your budget,” Madigan replied. “I give the best estimate that I can on what it takes to keep the services that you have, and then it falls to the selectmen and the voters to decide what they want.”

Shortly before the residents voted to approve the question, Aniel said, “Whatever happened, happened. But I will say this: with the Board of Selectmen that we have now, things will change.”

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