SALEM -- Voters at this year's town deliberative session said "nay" to a proposed amendment removing $73,000 in charitable and community service funding from next year's operating budget.
During Saturday morning's meeting, the Board of Selectmen moved to reduce the $37,491,052 operating budget by $73,153, reflecting the discontinued funding of several nonprofit organizations.
"This is a very lean budget," Chairman Patrick Hargreaves said.
Several citizens in the audience, however, spoke against the motion.
"I think to have these agencies pulled out of the budget isn't right. They all do good work . . . and they belong in the budget," resident Paul Parisi said.
Budget Committee Chairman Russell Frydryck urged audience members against amending the budget.
"This town voted yes for each of these outside human services groups three years in a row," Frydryck said. "As part of Salem's tradition, I think these groups should remain in the budget. These are services that are beneficial to the people in our town."
Another move to reduce the operating budget by $8,750 to reflect changes in water funding was moved forward without comment.
Voters will have the final say on the amended $37,482,302 budget next month.
A separate article asking voters to consider $58,153 in funding for eight human service agencies, including Greater Salem Caregivers, Community Health Services and Meals on Wheels, generated further discussion.
Selectmen Stephen Campbell moved to reduce that number to zero and said the article is redundant. His amendment was supported by an overwhelming standing vote.
"The money is (already) in the operating budget, so there's no intention of not paying," said Campbell. "We obviously aren't going to pay them twice."
Campbell said the town's operating budget makes provision for funding additional service groups not included in the separate Article 13, noting the town budget already calls for $73,000 in charitable funding making the article obsolete.
Saturday's town deliberative session marked a milestone for Salem, as it was the town's first time operating under an SB2 form of government, Town Moderator Chris Goodnow said. Around 100 people attended the meeting.
Selectmen Michael Lyons moved to amend a $1.6 million bond item for the replacement of bridges at Bluff Street and Providence Hill Road, forward with little discussion.
Lyons said more recent bid results implied a $440,000 decrease, reducing the item to a $1.1 million bond. A $5.6 million bond item for road construction and engineering was reduced by $283,101 in similar fashion, with the new total being $5.3 million.
One resident questioned why funds from the town's water fund couldn't be used for the project, rather than a bond.
"We're in a unique situation this year with the road program," Selectman Lyons said. "We do need to replace the water line but if we were paying cash for this, it would wipe our water fund out."
A $250,000 snow expendable trust fund was supported by both the selectmen and the Budget Committee and was moved forward with little discussion.
Also moved forward were a $125,000 article for bridge engineering on Shannon Road, a $250,000 article for a new ambulance and a $354,708 article for the purchase of public works vehicles.
The amended articles will now head before voters on March 12.