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January 23. 2013 10:58PM

Next stop for Bedford's $25.9 million budget is for voters to have their say

BEDFORD - The 2013 town budget is on its way to being presented to voters, following Wednesday night's final public budget hearing.

Ken Messamore of Bedford Village Green questioned the addition of an administrative assistant position in the Planning Department.

"I highly object to you including in this budget any kind of a title that says executive assistant because that sounds like a Taj Mahal position . when in reality it's a secretary," Messamore said.

Town Council Chairman Bill Dermody defended the position, pointing to the department's usage of secretarial staff from other departments, distracting them from carrying out their job descriptions.

"We have two people who can't do their jobs because of having to split time with the Planning Department," Dermody said. "It is very important that we get someone into that department downstairs who can do the job that's required of the Planning Department."

The 2013 budget request is for $25,929,418, including a 30 cent tax increase, which brings the tax rate to $4.65 per $1,000 assessed value. Retirement costs passed down by the state and the hiring of two full-time and one part-time employees account for the increase.

The budget represents an increase of $1.7 million over last year's budget. Last year, the owner of a $200,000 property paid $870 in town taxes. This year, the amount would increase to $930.

Messamore also took the opportunity to blast the school budget, which accounts for 73 percent of the tax dollar next to the town's 21 percent and 6 percent on the county level.

"The town budget is miniscule compared to that monster on the hill," he said. "It may be the best school in the U.S., I don't know. All I know is we can't afford it."

"We've got to get the town tax rate down - we can no longer afford it."

Dermody reminded Messamore that the council has no authority over the school budget. Messamore implored the council to attend the school board budget meeting and represent his position.

Bedford resident Albert Martore questioned the purchase of a $400,000 fire engine.

Town Manager Jessie Levine said that the funds come from a town savings account and have no impact on the tax rate.

Fire Chief Scott Wiggin also stood in defense of the truck. "Delaying some of these purchases is kind of like kicking the can down the road," Wiggin said, adding that the purchase of code-required vehicles doesn't get any cheaper with time.

A final vote takes place at the Budgetary Town Meeting, March 6 at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium. Election day, when the school budget will be put to the voters, takes place the following Tuesday.

A rundown of the town manager's 2013 operating budget is available at bit.ly/TBx4fx.

srios@newstote.com


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