After two full nights of deliberations, voters approved roughly $128 million to keep the town and school departments running for the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1 during one of the first remote Town Meetings to be held in the state.
Members also sent back for fine-tuning a proposal that would allow town warrants to be delivered electronically and another that would increase the number of senior citizens who qualify for property tax abatements.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the offsite and historic representative Town Meeting.
The first evening meeting on June 15, which was held over the Zoom conferencing application, drew 237 Town Meeting members via their computers, tablets, and even a couple of standard, or landline, telephones.
The second night had 232 participants, who raised points of order, amendments, and votes remotely, according to Town Moderator Bob Hiss.
Town Meeting approved by a large margin every proposed budget which totaled just over $113 million to support the town departments including public safety and general government. Included in that amount is $52 million for the school department budget.
Town Meeting also approved nearly $15 million for water, sewer, and stormwater enterprise funds that are funded through fees. That brought the total tally for the night to just under $128 million.
Even as the budgets were being put to bed, town and school officials indicated that much of the story of this year’s budget may still need to be rewritten as the long-term effects on the economic shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic are felt over time.
Officials described the budget as lean and noted that departmental requests had already been knocked down by about $2 million. Voters approved tapping the town’s rainy day funds by $1 million to avoid further cuts.
Various town boards are now facing a quick turn around as they prepare for a second, and likely still remote, Town Meeting on July 28.