BELLOWS FALLS -- The village's 2013-14 budget will go up for a third vote this week as a result of a successful petition submitted by at least 5 percent of registered voters.
More than the required 91 people signed the petition, delivered to Rockingham Town Hall on Monday, July 22, to reconsider the budget figures approved in late June. The proposed budget has not changed at all and voters will be able to have their voices heard again starting at 7 p.m. at the Rockingham Town Hall on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Residents passed a budget of $1,883,182 -- with $1,772,307 to be raised by taxes -- for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2013, and ending on June 30, 2014. Citizens later put together the petition to have it reconsidered.
Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II told the Reformer the petition pertains to two separate articles. He said voters must first pass an article to reconsider the budget passed on Monday, June 24. If they do so, they will move on to the next article, which is about the actual budget.
Stearns said if residents reject the first article, the budget will remain as it is and no other vote will be taken. Regardless, a budget will be finalized by the end of the night, one way or another.
This will be the third time the budget has come up for a vote, as village voters rejected the initial proposed budget of $1,945,357 (with $1,864,482 to be raised by taxes) at Village Meeting in May.
Stearns said he has not gauged the public's opinion leading up to Thursday's meeting, but he is confident voters will choose to keep the budget the way it is.
"My gut tells me any reasonable person would understand the decision was already made by the people on June 24," he said.
The budget omits a ninth officer for the Bellows Falls Police Department and about $900 in administration costs that had been included in the one presented to voters at Village Meeting. Stearns said the final figures had put the tax rate at .6698, up from .6417 from last year. Going without a ninth officer cuts $92,000 in salary, benefits and overtime, according to Stearns.
He told the Reformer tax bills have already been sent out to residents and adding or subtracting anything from the budget will cost the village more money because revised tax bills will need to be mailed out to account for the changes.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.