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Proposed town budget trimmed

Pamela Rigaux
Frederick News-Post

(6/22) The town's board of commissioners voted against some benefits proposed by Mayor James Hoover for town employees, but accepted his 2006 budget with revisions Monday.

The biggest change was drop-ping a proposal to invest in a state pension program. The plan would have cost the town more than $42,000 the first year, and as much as $400,000 over a decade.

Mr. Hoover and Commissioner Glenn Blanchard voted in favor of the investment, arguing that the state pension program would help the town retain good staff. Commissioners Chris Staiger and Art Elder voted against the plan. Commissioner Bill O'Neil was absent.

"I don't know that there aren't better ways to provide our employees a retirement program," Mr. Staiger said. "I'm curious why other options were not present-ed."

The town paid the state $5,000 last year to do a preliminary study of the cost to join the state's pension plan.

I don't think we were getting all the ins and outs of the plan," Mr. Elder said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have voted for the $5,000 study. I don't think there's enough time to make a decision about the pension. I think we should post-pone it."

The board unanimously voted to shave 1.1 percent from the cost of living increase town employees will receive next year. The proposal was 3.6 percent. The approved increase was 2.5 percent.

"My retirement doesn't go up this much every year," resident Betsy Forrence said. "That's based on cost of living as well."

Mr. Staiger asked the board to set up a procedure for establishing cost of living increases in the future. That item will be discussed at a later time.

Residents will have higher water rates in fiscal 2006. The board, by a 3-1 vote, approved increasing the fees by a flat $2.50 to the base rate for residential users. Mr. Elder was the only commissioner who voted against the increase.

He said last year the water department fixed storage tanks and repaired wells. "This year, we shouldn't have anything like that. I'm not totally in favor of a water increase at this time," Mr. Elder said.

Mr. Hoover reiterated what he has said in previous meetings. The increase is for the enterprise fund, a fund for future emergencies and needs. "We've had deteriorated pipes for many years," he said. "We're playing catch-up."

A motion to increase the base sewer rates by $2.50 passed 3-1 with Mr. Elder opposed.

A resolution to increase personal property taxes from 75 cents to 90 cents per $100 of assessed property value was unanimously approved.

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