Kevin Leandro addresses the Board of Selectmen during last week’s Deleberative Session of the annual Town Meeting. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
February 15, 2012Voters gathered in the High School auditorium for the Deliberative Session of the 2012 Town Meeting Tuesday, Feb. 7 to review and amend all Warrant articles set to appear on the ballot Tuesday, March 13.
With property taxes up as assessed values decreased in some areas last year, some concerned voters were in favor of cutting the municipal budget by $165,826, or 1.5 percent. This would decrease the budget, as proposed in Warrant Article 9, from $11,055,115 to $10,889,289.
Barbara Aichinger, an Edgewater Drive resident, proposed the amendment to Article 9, citing her belief that Gilford has an unusually high tax rate compared to other communities around Lake Winnipesaukee.
According to Selectman Kevin Hayes, the proposed budget would yield an estimated decrease of six cents in tax rates.
Former Fire Chief John Beland explained that quoting tax rates is not an accurate comparison of communities because one must also consider the municipal services provided to taxpayers.
Selectman John O'Brien cited that some towns, including Meredith, do not have a full-time fire department. O'Brien said that Gilford residents voted to have a full-time fire department several years ago.
At the request of Aichinger, residents voted on the amendment by secret ballot, and the amendment was defeated, 26 to 96.
Town Clerk/Tax Collector Denise Gonyer motioned to increase the proposed budget by $12,200 to add a part-time position to the TC/TC office.
According to Gonyer, the position was originally to be cut from 40 hours per week to 24 hours per week, but, to further reduce the budget, selectmen eliminated the position completely.
According to O'Brien, after receiving a number of requests to reduce the budget from local residents, selectmen made budget and personnel cuts to many departments which would result in reduced services. Since they rarely saw waiting lines at the TC/TC office, he said, the selectmen assumed reductions could be made in the department.
Gonyer's amendment passed, 51 to 46, raising the budget to $11,067,315; however, the amendment does not garuntee that selectmen will use the added funds for the suggested purpose, as they have the right, under state law, to expend the bottom line figure however they see fit.
Budget Committee members David Horvath and Kevin Leandro made a motion to amend Warrant Article 8, $450,000 for the purchase of a new fire engine.
Board of Fire Engineers Chairman Bill Akerley explained that the fire department made some serious sacrifices to have this article approved, including cutting the full-time secretary position to a part time receptionist and eliminating the part-time fire inspector position.
According to Akerley, the Fire Engineers reduced their total budget by 3.8 percent over the previous year.
Akerley said the 1987 Engine Four was due to be replaced, as the average service life of Gilford's fire engines over the past 44 years is 23 and a half years.
Horvath motioned to change the wording so the new fire engine would replace the current Engine Two, a 2003 model.
Fire Chief Steve Carrier explained that this would be incorrect, since the new engine would put Engine Four, the 1987 model, out of service.
At the request of Budget Committee member Skip Murphy, residents voted by secret ballot. The motion failed, 21 to 96
Leandro motioned to amend Article 8 by adding his estimated cost of $510,000 for the purchase of the new fire engine because the $450,000 would be paid through bonds. By show of hands, the motion failed, 22 to 83.
After the meeting, the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee members held meetings to adopt the changes made to the total budget. Leandro called for another vote on Artcle 8, the new fire engine, as selectmen had recently voted to not recoment the purchase.
Leandro hoped that selectmen's representative Gus Benivides voting agaist the article would break the previous tie vote.
Budget committee members ultimately voted four to eight not to recomend Article 8.