Opera House conference room upgrade dropped from warrant

January 15, 2014
LITTLETON — The selectmen received a budget update on Monday. The work session also provided an opportunity for the board to consider the fate of town articles for March's warrant. Most sailed through without dissent. However, problems were encountered for a proposal to refurbish an Opera House conference room for town use and for possible rental income.

Discussions about upgrades for the room also took place last year. This year's warrant originally had a $35,000 funding amount for improvements to the room, which is upstairs from the Opera House's main level.

The funds would have improved the looks of the room, as well as purchased chairs and other items. Through use of $3,000 in a house revenue fund and $15,000 in fund balance, the $17,000 from taxation would have had a tax impact of 2.2 cents.

After the draft language was read, the selectmen voted against placing the article on the final warrant. Marghie Seymour was the only member of the trio to recommend the article. Chairman Mike Gilman and Vice Chairman Milt Bratz were opposed.

Seymour thought making the room more useful was a justified town effort. "I feel we should be using that building," she said. Gilman did not seem opposed in principle to the room refurbishment. He simply said "not this year" to defend his no vote.

The selectmen's decision on the Opera House conference room mirrors the thoughts of the budget committee. Weeks before, the committee voted against recommending the room's improvement.

Earlier in Monday's meeting, the selectmen received positive news regarding town revenue and expenditures as of December 31. Finance Director Karen Noyes said revenues were 112 percent of last year's budget. She said motor vehicle registrations continued to be strong, which helped the town's overall revenue picture for the year.

Regarding 2013 expenditures, Noyes said both operating expenses and debt service were both below the budgeted amounts. Seymour noted the legal budget was only 30.4 percent of the budgeted amount, an especially good number, she said.

Noyes also listed total numbers for the 2014 proposed and default budgets. The proposed amount for the budget, which voters will render a verdict on in March, is $7,931,024. The default, which will prevail if the larger amount fails to garner voter approval, is $7,852,230.

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