Kingston budget proposal draws concern
"Obviously, if the town votes down the budget and we go into default that affects all of us," Fire Chief Bill Seaman said.
The budget committee had recommended passage of the proposed $4.7 million budget until voters at the annual town deliberative session on Feb. 2 added $7,250 to the bottom line. The money was originally included as a warrant article but voters agreed to stick it in the budget instead. It will be decided when voters head to the polls March 12.
The money would match another $7,250 raised by the Kingston Historical Museum Committee for an archivist and to buy materials for the cataloging and preservation of museum, town and library documents and other historic materials.
Following the budget increase, the budget committee later took a new vote and decided against recommending the budget proposal.
Budget committee member Gary Finerty said putting the money from the warrant article into the budget "was a slippery thing to do" and was approved by a small group of people "with a private interest."
"If it gets buried in the budget the townspeople don't know they're voting for it. The town should vote on it, not a set number of people," he said.
In a similar move, the school's budget committee also voted not to recommend the proposed school budget after deliberative session voters added nearly $100,000.
The lack of support from the budget committee "could potentially influence the voters," Seaman said.
If the budget fails, the town would be forced to operate with a default budget that's about $138,000 less than what was proposed.
Road Agent Rich St. Hilaire said he's also worried about possible cuts to his budget.
St. Hilaire said his budget often takes a hit when the proposed town budget fails because road projects can be put on hold, though sooner or later they have to be done. That would likely be the case this time as well, but, he said, "It's not the smart thing to do."
He said he feels the $7,250 should have been left as a warrant article because it had the support of the budget committee and selectmen.
Virginia Morse, chairman of the town's historic district commission, made the motion to add the $7,250 to the budget.
She said she and others felt the money should be included in the budget because it's intended to preserve existing town documents and doesn't involve a new purchase.
"This is property that belongs to the town and the selectmen include those things in their budget," she said. "The people that voted for it were not just a select group who voted and then left.
Those people stayed and worked all the way through all the warrant articles. I don't think it was just a few people who rallied for the moment and then left."
Seaman said his fire department budget is down 1.38 percent from last year's spending - a decrease attributed largely to two new employees who were hired at lower salaries to fill vacancies.
"If I have to reduce it further that will affect some programs. We would start with some of the non-emergency programs," Seaman said.
Areas that could face cuts include education in the schools and other fire prevention programs.