PARIS — The second time was not the charm for a citizens’ petition to cap the town’s tax rate at the state average.

Paris selectmen again voted 3-2 Monday night, defeating a motion to bring resident and business owner Scott Buffington’s petition to an open town meeting.

Voting for the motion were Vice Chairman Mike Risica, who reconsidered his original “no” vote for the same motion on Sept. 28, and Selectwoman Janet Jamison. Voting against the motion were Chairman Robert Wessels and Selectmen Sam Elliot and Vic Hodgkins. The original motion was rejected Sept. 28 with the same vote, but with Elliot and Jamison voting for it. 

In reconsidering his vote, Risica said he’s been thinking long and hard about the matter since last month. He said he wanted residents to have a voice in the matter.

Buffington’s petition would cap the town’s tax rate to the state average and require 50 percent of voters to override spending more than that average, beginning in July 2016.

The most recent state weighted average tax rate is $14.49 per $1,000 of assessed value. The town’s rate is $18.30.

Town Manager Amy Bernard previously said the town’s attorney reported the petition was not valid.

“It would still be advisory only,” Bernard said Monday evening. “You can’t make 51 percent or 50 percent of the voters attend the meeting, therefore, that is your issue. Regardless of what you do, this question is not binding.”

“Well, there’s no harm in letting it go forward,” Jamison said.

Hodgkins strongly disagreed. He noted according to the town attorney, the petition isn’t legal. If the petition moved to an open town meeting, even with the caveat that it is advisory only, people supporting the petition would still expect the board to make deep cuts to the municipal budget to hit the state tax rate.

“Again, think, we’re playing with dynamite,” Hodgkins said. “If it goes to a town meeting there’s no win. It’s lose-lose.”

“I don’t agree with $1.2 million in cuts. I won’t ever vote for anything like that,” Risica said, again noting he wants people to weigh in. “There’s people who do.”

Wessels took issue with having outdated state average tax rate figures, with the newest one from 2013, and not agreeing on how much should be cut from the current municipal budget. The board estimated these cuts would be between $1.2 million and $1.5 million to hit the state average. People who support the citizens’ petition said the cuts would range between $750,000 and $900,000.

“Let’s take the advisory piece off. If we voted yes, we wouldn’t know what we’re doing still,” Wessels said, noting he doesn’t feel comfortable presenting something as a governing body that doesn’t have concrete figures.

Elliot told Buffington he thought his petition was well intended, but he was worried about the legality and repercussions from deep budget cuts. Plus, voters have power over the budget at the town meeting, he added.

“We can go to town meeting with any budget that is proposed. The public is free to change any article they want,” Elliot said. “If the majority of the people want to cut the budget to that degree, they’ll show up and do that.”

Buffington wanted to speak while the board was on the topic – which was past the citizens’ comments portion – but Wessels would not entertain it.

“Democracy fails again,” business owner and resident Dennis Creaser said from the audience.

Later in the meeting, Wessels said he saw the petition as a success, even if Buffington didn’t.

“[The] petition has brought the view . . . of the subset of our town to our attention. I guarantee you personally would not have gone with a $500,000 cut to the budget without hearing that voice,” Wessels said.

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