Rockingham Voters Approve Spending Increase

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(Host) Voters in Rockingham held the "floor" portion of their town meeting Monday night.

They scrutinized their level-funded budget in a mood of caution due to the sluggish economy.

Then, in a surprise move, they voted to spend more.

VPR’s Susan Keese has the story.

(Gavel) (Moderator) "Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  We are here for the Rockingham School District meeting and the Rockingham Town Meeting."

(Keese) About 150 people turned out in Bellows Falls’ town hall theater, ready to tackle the budgetary math, in the interest of saving the town money.

They debated whether a new six wheel plow truck or a ten wheeler would give the town greater value.

Some, like Candy Anderson, thought the whole $200,000 expenditure could be eliminated.

(Anderson) "I say ‘Do with what you have. Don’t keep raising our taxes and buying more toys. You remind me of the United States government. Spend, spend, spend. Stop it!"

(Keese) Voters did approve the truck, after lengthy debate.

The budget prepared by the selectboard had reduced all social services requests by 10 percent.

They had also cut three town positions.

Rockingham Selectboard chairman Tom MacPhee said the decision was a hard one.

(MacPhee) "None of us took any satisfaction in this decision. We heard from many of you and many of you are here this evening saying look, please do not raise the tax rate. Reduce the services if you need to but please, do not raise taxes."

(Keese) But in the end, voters raised their own taxes by a few cents. 

Speaker after speaker argued that the eliminated jobs and the people who held them were vital to the town.

By a three-to-one margin, they added the money to restore all three positions.

Rockingham votes on its school budget and town officers by Australian ballot today.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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