80 Brookline voters cut budget by $60K
Friday, March 22, 2013
BROOKLINE – Selectman Darrell Philpot said the March 13 Town Meeting turnout was one of the lowest he had ever seen, after a mere 12 percent turnout rate at the polls the day before. Still, the present residents passed all 13 articles on their warrant and plowed through various discussions in under three hours.
The lengthiest of discussions centered around the operating budget, which was amended from its original $4,054,329 figure to $3,994,329 by town officials. The $60,000 reduction was overwhelmingly accepted by the town.
Philpot explained that in previous years, the town had spent under their allotted budget. In a PowerPoint presentation, he pointed to some key drivers for this year’s budget, 3.4 percent increase over last year’s, including plowing and sanding costs, a rise in transfer station costs due to a lack of recycling and health insurance.
Finance Committee members were originally opposed to the proposed budget, not recommending it by a 2-0 vote, but they later said the amendment changed their view and they would support it.
Committee member Dennis Skey said he felt the town could reconsider their ambulance arrangement, stating he thought the original budget “(more) should be done.”
“I don’t think we’re working hard enough to try to reduce what we have,” Skey said.
Skey also voiced his opposition to an article for a general $30,000 appropriation for road and bridge improvements. He said he believed the money would be “not well spent” without an initial plan in place for those funds.
Town residents voiced support and concern on the question of whether to change Finance Committee positions from one-year seats to three-year terms. Some argued committee members need time to learn Brookline’s finances beyond one year, while others said they felt participation in town politics was minimal enough and an extended term may defer some people from running for those positions. Tuesday, there were a few vacancies on the ballot, with several write-ins for Town Hall employees to weed through.
“It takes one year to get around the finances of the town and by moving to overlap,” Town Administrator Tad Putney said in support of the article, “there will always be more consistency in terms of the Finance Committee.”
The article was eventually accepted.
The town also voted to approve $51,977 for purchasing two new Lifepak 15 defibrillators for their ambulance departments, which were showcased by Ambulance Director Wes Whittier that evening. Additionally, $25,000 was appropriated for renovating Town Hall for additional office space after the police department is moved out of the building’s basement and $10,000 was placed for updating a Brookline history book written in 1914 by Edward Parker, according to Putney. A handful of residents raised their magenta-colored cards against that article.
On the question of whether to raise $32,900 for Milfoil control efforts at Potanipo Pond, an emotional plea was made to the town to approve the article. Resident Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt approached the public comment microphone, voicing at first that she was going to reveal a very personal side of herself. Then she spoke of how 20 years ago, she couldn’t walk because of multiple sclerosis. She compared the infestation at the pond to her MS diagnosis and said additional funds were needed to repair the area, the same way her physical therapy was necessary to improve her health.
“We can do something about it so it doesn’t take us over. I may have multiple sclerosis, abut multiple sclerosis does not have me,” Neilsen-Steinhardt said. “And milfoil does not, and is not, going to have us.”
Her remarks concluded with a round of applause from voters before they approved the vote. An amendment to pull $19,740 from the Land Acquisition Fund for the project, rather than by general taxation, was proposed by another resident but ultimately shot down by voters. Now, $19,740 will come from taxation and $13,160 will come from a Department of Environmental Services grant to assist in the milfoil control and removal.
At the start of the meeting, after outgoing selectmen Clarence Farwell and Jack Flanagan received standing ovations, voters were asked to vote again on whether to authorize monies in the special revenue fund for cable access, to allow for maintenance of Channel 13 as well as the town website.
The question came before voters Tuesday in the town election but moderator Peter Webb explained officials were unclear on the appropriate process. For legal purposes, they had townspeople vote twice and said they would consult with the state on which vote to accept.
The article was approved Tuesday as well as Wednesday night by a 98-15 vote.
Samantha Allen can be reached at 594-6426 or sallen@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Allen on Twitter (@Telegraph_SamA).