NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 22, 2013

Salisbury Town Meeting approves operating budget

BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALISBURY — A large crowd of 387 registered voters turned out for Town Meeting Monday night, and, in addition to passing the bonding question that allows a new library to be built, gave approval on all major issues on its agenda.

An operating budget of $20,127,443 was approved with little debate, representing a 3 percent increase over all in town spending next year. The amounts includes $9,487,410 for Triton Regional School District assessment, a 3.2 percent increase from the town’s assessment this year.

As a result of the budget’s passage, three town departments will gain employees. The public works and fire departments will each gain one employee, with the fire department’s new hire covering inspectional services. Also, beginning in January, a lieutenant will be added to the police department, a position that does not currently exist.

Town Meeting also approved two articles in relation to cemetery services. The first gives selectmen the authority to work with Long Hill Cemetery Trustees, in hopes the town can take over the currently private non-profit cemetery. The trustees have $135,000 in trust that would go to the town, if the land passes into public hands.

In addition, voters approved creating a cemetery commission to address related issues for all the town’s current five cemeteries, and Long Hill, if it is acquired by the town.

Town Meeting authorized a number of lots of land with tax title status for non-payment to pass under the control of the town treasurer. In so doing, the treasurer will be able to call a tax title auction of the six parcels of land to sell them and recoup lost town revenue.

Voters also approved two questions, 19 and 26, both of which were meant to clear up road issues that have plagued the beach district area for decades. They both relate to roadways belonging to the Salisbury Beach Associates (SBA), which over previous decades, were either accepted improperly as public streets or were never accepted at all, but which have been maintained by the town as public streets. The streets are technically the private property of the heirs of the Salisbury Beach Associates, although they have never been billed for related taxes. With the passage of both articles, the selectmen can negotiate for acquisition of the roads with the SBA. Many of these roadways lay in the flood plain by the Blackwater River, a section with severe flood problems and where flood prevention efforts are currently underway.

• With the required two-thirds majority, Town Meeting approved a second $1,026,372 borrowing effort for energy conservation improvements to town buildings. Including the conversion from oil to natural gas, roof repair and even weather stripping, the money to pay back the loan will come from the money saved from the conservation improvements.

• The town will negotiate a payment-in-lieu of 20-year tax agreement with the new solar energy producing utility on Rabbit Road. The method used elsewhere for some utilities, will proved the town with revenue certainty, instead of haggling over assessed values on the facility as it ages.

• Town Meeting rejected two citizens petitions, the first would have required a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting whenever any new town policy is enacted or when a existing policy is enforced. The second would have changed the way the town bills for water and sewer charges.