Wednesday April 3, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- The village's Board of Trustees last week adopted a seven-figure budget that will go up for public vote in May.

In a 4-1 vote, the trustees gave the nod to a $1,975,357 budget, with $1,864,482 to be raised by taxes, at a special meeting held Thursday in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre. These figures include a 0.0629-cent increase (from 0.6417 last year to an estimated 0.7046) and will be voted on at the 2013 Village Meeting on Monday, May 20.

The budget, if adopted by voters, would also include $506,011 for the Bellows Falls Fire Department and $1,139,057 for the Bellows Falls Police Department. The BFPD figure will include $90,000 for the salary and benefits of an additional officer. The addition would mark the first time the department had a ninth officer since 2009.

BFPD Chief Ron Lake attended Thursday's special meeting and said the ninth officer could help take some of the burden off of his staff and will make scheduling a lot easier.

"It's busy and I don't see any relief in sight," he told the Reformer, adding that the department has averaged about one arrest per day since the first of the year.

Lake said he cannot begin searching for a qualified candidate until the budget is passed and a new officer cannot start working for his department until July 1.

"The community has always come out and supported their police department," he said. "I hope and pray this budget is passed.


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Rockingham Finance Director Chip Stearns said the trustees also approved of adding to the village warrant an article for financing one police vehicle for up to three years and up to $30,000. He said it would be a part of the village's total expenditures.

Lake told the Reformer he has not gotten a new police vehicle since taking the job more than five years ago.

Deborah Wright was the only trustee to vote not to adopt the budget, later telling the Reformer she does not think it is appropriate to levy higher taxes against village residents. She said the trustees will sign the official village warning at Tuesday's meeting.

Citizens, she said, will see a 25-cent increase on their total tax rate because of the hike in the village tax, as well as those paid to the town of Rockingham and the local school district.

"People are still in recovery from the recession. People are just starting to get back on their feet," she said Tuesday.

Wright said she understands how busy the police department is but does not want to put an additional tax burden on the people.

First-year Trustee Andrew Smith said he is content with the budget and the board worked hard to make sure the tax rate is as low as it could be.

"I felt we minimized the pain as much as was possible," he told the Reformer. "Nobody likes to see the tax rate go up."

Smith also said there will be an article proposed to voters to approve $13,000 specifically for the enforcement of the village's unsafe building ordinance.

Wright said she also disapproved of that article because she would like to see more creative ways of handling it and getting people engaged.

Stearns also said the water and wastewater budgets are expected to be $940,187 and $696,253, respectively.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.