All municipal spending approved in Manchester
By PATRICK MCARDLE
Staff Writer | March 03,2013
MANCHESTER — Voters at a lightly attended floor meeting passed every town meeting item Saturday, including a town budget of about $4.5 million, but cut a request from the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless by more than a third before granting it.
With no controversial articles on the agenda, attendance was down to about 145 people at the Manchester Elementary-Middle School for the three-hour meeting. In the past two years, attendance has been about 180 people.
The town conducts almost all of its business, with the exception of the election of officers, from the floor. In addition to the budget, voters approved appropriations totaling $24,731 for various agencies and $153,200 for the Mark Skinner Library.
Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie said the amount to be raised by taxes this year from the municipal budget, including the additions approved at the floor meeting, is $2,502,699, an increase of 6.84 percent over the current year.
The $5,000 appropriation request from the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless became one of the most-discussed topics at the meeting after Wayne Bell, vice chairman of the Select Board, asked voters to reject the request. The appropriation was placed on the ballot through petitions and represented an increase of more than three times the $1,500 approved in 2012.
But Bell said the coalition had contacted the Select Board and notified them that the board members from the nonprofit group, which helps homeless people throughout Bennington County, had said they couldn’t accept the $5,000 because the financial information they had submitted was inaccurate.
Stacey New, the chairwoman of the coalition’s board of directors, came to the town meeting and asked that voters approve the request for $5,000 or a lesser amount despite the coalition’s current difficulties.
“Our position is humble at this moment,” she said.
Some voters at the meeting expressed concern that the coalition’s only site in Manchester would close March 15 and the site was not serving any Manchester residents.
After Beattie made a motion to reduce the appropriation and require a corrected financial report before any money could be released, the $1,500 funding request was approved.
The municipal budget, $4,544,328, survived a challenge by resident Leslie Cole to reduce it to $4,438,681. The cut would have represented a level-funded figure for the amount to be raised by taxes from last year. The motion was defeated, 111-21.
During the rest of the meeting, Cole was critical of funding requests and voted loudly against all of them, sometimes as the only negative vote.
Two other budget items were passed: $50,000 for improvements to the parkhouse which will serve the municipal pool in the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, and $50,000 as a matching grant for improving the skateboard park adjacent to the pool.
Both those requests involved transferring money from reserve funds and will not increase the tax rate.
Manchester voters will elect town officers and decide school budgets by ballot from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Hall.