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Orange budget prep for town meeting down to the wire

ORANGE — The Board of Selectman and the Finance Committee have met jointly on two occasions this week to discuss differences in their budget recommendations. The annual town meeting is Monday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

Board of Selectmen Vice Chairman David B. Ames said at a meeting Tuesday night that they are not where they should be in the process. Taking into account setbacks like the town administrator’s leave of absence, from which she recently returned, Ames said, “We need to make a conscious effort for more meetings at the beginning of the process.” His hopes are that next year’s process will be smoother.

The town’s operating budget as it stands right now, will call for a 2½ percent increase in real estate and personal property taxes. The 2½ percent increase comes despite the Orange Elementary School Board’s decision to consolidate elementary schools and close Butterfield School for an estimated $300,000 savings.

Article 17 on the annual town meeting agenda currently asks for $489,538 to fund purchase or refurbishment of an ambulance and equipment, a cruiser for the police department, a truck for the Public Works Department as well as a tractor and a used dump truck for that department and a skid steer loader for the Sanitation Department.

Ames, who is also the chairman of the Capitol Improvement Planning Committee, told the Finance Committee on Tuesday night that Capitol Improvement would be recommending elimination of the ambulance refurbish and stretchers from Article 17, but leave the cruiser and truck in, to be taken out of the town’s surplus line item. He also suggested leaving in the skid loader and funding that through borrowing.

Linda Smith, the chairwoman of the Finance Committee, advised that, on word from the town’s treasurer, borrowing was not something she would recommend. The Board of Selectman, however, pointed out that it was going to be necessary, especially in the case of Police Station repairs that are considered an emergency item in the proposed budget with a requested amount of $151,235.00. Repairs include providing a new roof to the police station along with doing attic repairs and HVAC system replacement.

As of Tuesday night’s meeting there were still several dozen budget line items for which the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee did not have the same recommendations. Hopes were for a productive discussion about differences at Wednesday night’s regularly scheduled Finance Committee meeting, which the board would attend. The most recent versions of the town meeting agenda and the working copy of the budget are available under “announcements”at the town of Orange website:

townoforange.org

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