Bethel voters hold the budget line
Bethel voters turned a potential 9.4 percent tax hike into a nearly break-even budget bottom line last week with a combination of cuts and account transfers.
A total of 188 voters turned out for the meeting, which lasted two and one-half hours.
A Capital Improvements proposal, most of it for roadwork, was reduced from $815,000 to $569,500. The reductions included $180,500 for Chapman Street work Town Manager Jim Doar said could not be done this year; $25,000 for Cole Block improvements; and $40,000 that would have been raised privately for the dog park, which was turned down.
The only one generating discussion was the Cole Block funds, which selectboard Chair Stan Howe has championed for the purpose of preserving and using the upstairs of the old building.
The town office is on the first floor.
Howe noted the town has already spent money for a new pellet boiler and a new roof for the building, and said it would be wise to continue investing in it.
But others disagreed, noting there is little parking available around the structure and it would require extension renova-tion to make the upstairs handicapped-accessible.
Said Rick Whitney, “It’s a waste of money.”
The vote was 56-30 to re-move the $25,000 from the budget.
But voters were willing to add smaller amounts to an article for contributions to nonprofit organizations and activities.
Allen Connors, managing partner of the Bethel Inn, made a motion to add $2,000 to pay for Independ-ence Day fireworks, which are fired from inn prop-rty.
The town has appropri-ated money for the event in the past.
Connors said that this year, the inn had been “misled” to believe that the funds would be raised privately, but “the person in charge of doing that failed to do so, and basically he washed his hands of it,” Connors said.
He was asked if the fireworks would be on July 4th or on the weekend.
He said it would be Saturday, July 6, noting that in the past when fireworks took place midweek attendance was “just horrible.”
Voters approved the funds.
But the approval prompted criticism from Peter Mason, who noted that under the same article, only $200 was recommended to go toward the Telstar High School Project Graduation event.
Mason said it was “pretty pathetic” that the town would raise only $200, “but we spend $2,000 for 10 minutes of fireworks. I think our priorities are in the wrong place.”
Jane Ryerson then offered an amendment to add another $800, and it was approved. The overall article then totaled $58,876.
Residents further lowered their tax bills by voting to take $250,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance to reduce the tax commitment. The overall budget was reduced by $242,700 to $3,377,136.
Other money articles on the warrant were ap-proved.
The currently mil rate of 11.65 will rise to an esti-mated 11.90, Doar said.