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Orange special town meeting tonight

ORANGE — Some town officials say that while the new tax base growth figures have not yet been confirmed, there will be enough to pay for additional operating and capital expenses even if actual figures fall shy of the estimated mark.

But others warn about spending money when there is uncertainty over how much money is really in town coffers.

Ultimately, voters will decide in the special town meeting tonight, rescheduled from Tuesday due to snow.

Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Reinig said that $62,000 her board requests as an additional appropriation in the first article is less than half of the difference between the original $75,000 estimate of new growth and current estimates of $220,000.

“The difference is $145,000,” Reinig said. “We’ve got a lot of room to play with ... even if some of it is not certified.”

Board of Assessors Chairwoman Brenda Piro confirmed the town’s assessors recently submitted the new growth estimate as $220,000, and are waiting to hear back from the state whether it will be certified.

“We are moving forward with the process, but nothing is set in stone until the Department of Revenue confirms the submitted figure,” Piro said.

Reinig said, “The last I heard, the state didn’t have any serious issues with our estimates.”

She said the figures were prepared with advice from a consultant “who is highly respected by DOR and has significant experience in the industry and with the Town of Orange.”

She said that over half of the first appropriation request of $62,000 will be used to pay short-term debt interest. Another $8,360 will go into stabilization funds and $20,000 will be used for legal expenses.

She said officials questioned whether they under-estimated legal fees when preparing the budget last year as “we knew we had to resolve some legal issues that were building up for some time.” Some of these issues included the negotiation of four union contracts and the cablevision package this year, she said.

In a separate article, selectmen are requesting $15,000 for technology upgrades to aging town computers and software systems.

Finance Committee member Bob Anderson said “Personally … I know we need new computers, but there’s no plan (for the upgrades )… We’ve got to do it right or we’re going to be right back where we were three years ago,” when the town was struggling under a deficit of over half a million dollars.

Anderson echoed the sentiments of Finance Committee Chairwoman Linda Smith who told The Recorder earlier this week that without timely and accurate financial information or state confirmation of new growth figures, “We can’t spend what we don’t know we have.”

“Townspeople need to know we are spending their money the best way possible,” Anderson added. “And we can’t do that without accurate accounting information ... No regular businesses would appropriate money without having the accounting information of their business” informing the decision.

“It’s like spending your bonus money before you know what the dollar amount of the bonus really is,” he said.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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