PARIS – Residents voted unanimously Thursday evening to use $168,319 from surplus to cover overdrafts in town accounts.

Town Manager Vic Hodgkins said an article authorizing coverage of budget shortfalls was inadvertently omitted from the June 2016 annual town meeting warrant.

The overdrafts were due to the following:

• Two police officers out on workers’ compensation;

• Wages;

• Contributions to the state retirement system;

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• Lien filings in administration;

• An extra payroll period;

• Solid waste costing more than anticipated;

• Attorney fees;

• Insurance rate increases; and

• More tax abatements than normal.

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Hodgkins said the bills have already been paid because the fiscal year ended last summer.

“This isn’t a vote to authorize the money to be spent, because the money has already been spent,” he said.

Instead, the article asked voters to ratify use of the money.

“Every year, there are some departments who are overbudget all the time,” resident Mike Brogan said.

“The departments and the towns ought to be able to zero in on a budget better,” he said. “I’d never expect for the town to have zero dollars of overdrafts . . . but we should be a lot closer than $168,000 by the end of the year.”

Auditor Bill Hall said that while there were $168,319 in overdrafts, the total municipal budget for Paris was underspent by around $200,000.

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Residents also voted to establish a capital reserve account and transfer $40,921 from the surplus account into it.

They also voted to restrict selectmen from spending more than $20,000 from the account in a fiscal year.

Initially, the article asked voters if they wished to move $40,921 into a general reserve account, but Hall told Hodgkins he had an issue with the wording of the article.

“Do you currently have a town account with the name, General Reserve Account?” Hall asked.

Hodgkins said there isn’t.

“Well, before you can move the money into the account, you need the town to vote to establish the account,” Hall said.

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Hall said the purpose of the account is to build a cushion in case you ever need the money.

“This doesn’t mean that you have to spend the money,” Hall said. “It could just grow, grow, grow.”

Brogan said he wouldn’t want to give a carte blanche endorsement for the board to take money out of that fund.

“It’s one thing when they need to spend $1,000 or $5,000 on something,” Brogan said, “but when you get up to $15,000 or $20,000, I’m not comfortable with that.” 

Resident Rick Little said he favored establishing a capital reserve account and moving money into it from surplus, but suggested a cap of $20,000 that selectmen could spend without voter authorization.

Selectman Scott Buffington agreed with Little’s suggestion.

“Right now, we’re talking about $40,921 — and I’m not saying that it’s not a fair sum of money because it’s more than most people in this town make,” Buffington said. “However, what happens if that account grows to $80,000 or $100,000 in future years? Do you want to see the selectmen spending $80,000 on one item without voter approval?”

Residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of approving the amended article.

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