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February 5, 2014

Pelham budget cut proposal cut off at deliberative session

PELHAM — Voters last night effectively killed a citizen petition article attempting to cut the town budget by 5 percent.

While the article will appear on the ballot for Town Meeting on March 11, voters amended it to zero.

Selectmen and the Budget Committee had opposed the citizen petition article, which a member of the committee, Leo Rush, had pushed.

There was no debate over the question or the amendment.

Voters took similar action with another citizen petition article that would have tapped the town budget for nearly $700,000 to buy a fire truck.

Again, there was no debate.

The decisions came during a town deliberative session in Sherburne Hall that lasted just over an hour. About 60 people attended.

Voters, meanwhile, sent along to Town Meeting a $13.4 million budget without discussion.

No changes were made to articles calling for new contracts for police and firefighters.

Firefighters would see a series of three 2 percent raises. Police would get raises of 2, 1.5, 2 and 2 percent over four years.

The contracts carry a first-year combined cost of about $124,000.

Selectmen’s Chairman Ed Gleason said the combined impact would be about 35 cents on the tax rate over the life of the contracts.

The police and fire chiefs are asking voters to support the contracts.

Police Chief Joseph Roark, the acting town administrator, said it would bring stability to the police force.

“This keeps people working for us we want working for us,” Roark said.

There was no debate over a proposal to rewrite the town’s tax exemption for elderly property owners, which Selectman William McDevitt characterized as the most generous in the state.

McDevitt warned that, without reforms in the exemption program, an aging population could burden other taxpayers.

“We feel this is going to put pressure on us and you as taxpayers,” he said.

“We don’t want to be mean,” McDevitt said. “But we have concerns about the aging population.”

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