Chilmark votes '10 budget lower than this year's
In this excruciating economic moment, level-funded municipal budgets, or budgets that rise by barely measurable amounts, have been the aim of town selectmen and finance committee members.
But in Chilmark, level funding wasn't good enough. Voters at Monday's annual meeting, presented with a FY2010 budget that was lower than the spending plan for the current year, chose to take it lower, by nibbling at it here and there.
They spurned a three percent cost of living (COLA) pay hike for town employees, as recommended by the finance committee and selectman Warren Doty. Chilmark's FY2010 proposed payroll had been budgeted at $1.9 million before any town meeting action.
Then they rejected a proposal for no COLA at all, made by selectman Riggs Parker and forcefully supported by former town treasurer and perennial budget watchdog Judy Jardin. The difference between the three percent COLA and no COLA would have amounted to a savings of about $50,000.
Then, voters agreed to a two percent COLA, the favorite of selectmen chairman Frank Fenner. That meant a savings of $17,550.
Voters followed Ms. Jardin's lead and struck $2,600 from a line item for data entry, to force a change from weekly to every-other-week payrolls, a savings, Ms. Jardin argued, of both money and time now wasted by town personnel preparing payroll every seven days. Another $8,000 or so was nipped from the Up-Island Regional School District expense, on an amendment by school committee member Susan Parker.
In the end, voters gathered in unimpressive numbers - just 107 of 838 registered, or 13 percent - at the Community Center, whooshed through the budget and then through the non-budget warrant articles, approving $6,633,783 in spending on town operations, $47,616 below its FY2009 counterpart.
Voters approved every warrant article calling for the appropriation of non-budget dollars without amendment or discussion.
After the budget slog, town moderator Everett Poole declared a time out, and the selectmen took turns acknowledging the contributions of six longtime Chilmarkers, each different from the other but each a committed longtime volunteers in the interest of the town.
Selectmen asked for a moment of silence for David Flanders, who died Thanksgiving Day after shifting his beef herd from one pasture to another. Mr. Flanders had served for years on the town conservation commission, the Land Bank advisory board, the planning board, and as town fence viewer and surveyor of wood, lumber, and bark.