Strong town meeting moderator Paul Mills on Saturday administers the oath of office to four municipal officials elected on Friday afternoon. Left to right are new Selectmen Jim Burrill and Andy Pratt, Fire Chief Duayne Boyd and incumbent Selectman Rob Elliott. Picasa

STRONG — Voters at town meeting Saturday trimmed the proposed $1.06 million budget by $101,500, generating some strongly worded rhetoric and forcing some votes to be done by secret ballot.

Selectmen had recommended taking $250,000 from surplus to reduce the 2019 property taxes. Leaving only $162,000 in surplus would not be a good idea, Budget Committee member Alan Smith said. The town should have enough in reserve funds to operate for at least two months.

“I agree this is getting too low,”  said Selectman Rob Elliott.

Voters amended the original request to take only $150,000 from surplus. Residents also reduced the original Emergency Fund request from $5,000 to $3,500. Many property owners in town are behind on their taxes, noted one resident. That requires taxpayers who pay promptly to spend more money to make up that shortfall.

Selectmen offered reasons for particular cost center increases. Elliott said the technology budget increased because selectmen purchased TRIO payroll software and would pay for training to use it. They also hired web developer Greg Siekman to create the new website, which will be maintained by office staff.

One voter asked which account this year’s $27,635 backhoe payment would come from. Raising and appropriating that payment from taxes was not acceptable, said resident Richard Worthley.

Pond said voters in past years hadn’t fully prepared for the increases in costs to buy new highway equipment. He said the town has to raise and appropriate at least $56,000 each year to begin to address future equipment purchases, including a grader and a plow truck.

“I’m asking you to pay the same amount you did last year,” he told voters.

Voters raised $2,700 for the United Methodist Economic Ministry food pantry in Salem and $2,000 for a town-wide festival in July.

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