Budget is now up to Weston voters

budget_calculatorSchool and town administrators and the finance board have all had their chance to put forth a budget for 2013-14, but now it’s up to Weston voters.

The Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) is set for next Wednesday, April 24, at 8 p.m. in the Weston High School auditorium. The ATBM will decide the budget amounts for the town operating, school operating, debt service, and capital budgets.

Those numbers will then be voted on by machine at a referendum that will take place on two separate occasions: immediately following the ATBM in the high school library, and eight days later, on Thursday, May 2, from noon to 8 p.m. at Weston Middle School in the gymnasium.

Absentee ballots will also be available at the town clerk’s office (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) April 25 through May 1 (except Saturday and Sunday).

On the table is a total gross budget of $64,959,719, a $6,437 (0.01%) increase over the current year’s budget. Revenues are expected to offset the budget by $2,867,912, bringing the total net budget to $62,091,807, an overall decrease from the current year of $148,985 (-0.24%).

Voters will be asked to approve the following:

• School operating budget: $45,575,418 ($11,774 or 0.03% less than the current year’s budget).

• Town operating budget: $11,713,441 ($398,839 or 3.52% more than the current year).

• Total capital budget: $1,116,228 ($285,555 or 20.37% less than the current year), which includes $733,728 for the town and $395,000 for the schools, and special funds offsets of $12,500.

• Debt service budget: $6,554,632 ($95,073 or 1.43% less than the current year’s budget).

Voters at the ATBM vote on the bottom lines for the school, capital, and debt service budgets. The town budget is voted on by line item, making approximately 50 separate votes to get to the final town budget.

According to the new town charter, the budgets may not be increased by the ATBM. Also, a minimum of 2% of all the town’s qualified voters must be present at the ATBM in order to reduce any portion of the budget; if that quorum exists, reductions must be approved by a majority present at the ATBM.

All votes are taken by voice vote at the ATBM unless a request for a secret ballot is approved by at least one-third of those present.

Woody Bliss has been chosen as the ATBM moderator and Susan Moch is the alternate moderator.

Voting specifics

Voters must be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age.

To vote at the ATBM and/or the referendum, one must be either be a resident of Weston who is registered to vote or a Weston taxpayer with at least $1,000 assessed value of property. Voters should bring identification to the ATBM and the polls.

Residents will be asked to check in when entering the high school auditorium for the ATBM. Anyone who was there for the Police Commission’s presentation of the Citizen of the Year will be asked to exit the auditorium at the conclusion of the presentation and re-enter after checking in with the registrars of voters.

Voters will be asked to check in a second time with poll workers, either upon entering the high school library after the ATBM on April 24 or at the middle school gym on May 2.

The machine ballots will not include the finalized numbers that were approved at the ATBM. The three questions on the ballot will be: Should the school/town/capital (each separate questions) budget, as approved by the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), be approved?

The specific budget numbers will be available outside each polling place.

One voters list and the same voting machines will be used at both polling locations. This will ensure that people cannot vote twice, and it means votes will need to be tallied only once — after polls close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 2.

Absentee voting

Those who are not able to cast ballots on either April 24 or May 2 may vote by absentee ballot.

Absentee ballots for the referendum will be available beginning Thursday, April 25 (the day after the ATBM). These ballots must be picked up in person or by a designee and must be returned to the town clerk before the May 2 referendum.

The town clerk’s office at Weston Town Hall is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Those voting absentee must appear at town hall in person or designate on their application a family member or caregiver to pick up an absentee ballot.

Absentee ballots will not be mailed, as allowed by state statute when there are fewer than three weeks between finalizing the budget and the machine vote.

Mill rate 

If all portions of the budgets pass as proposed, the expected mill rate will be 23.89, a 0.54% decrease from this year’s rate of 24.02.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on the grand list. The mill rate is derived by dividing the town’s grand levy (its debt) by the town’s grand list. The grand list is made up of real estate, personal property and motor vehicle assessments.

Because the ATBM takes place after The Forum’s press deadline, information on the results will not be in the April 25 issue but will be available online immediately following the meeting. Full coverage of the ATBM will be in the May 2 issue of The Forum, and final voting results will be in the paper May 9.

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