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Lyme Voters OK $2 Million Budget

  • Jill Muntz listens to a resident speaking at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H., on March 11, 2014. Beside her is her husband Charley. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Jill Muntz listens to a resident speaking at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H., on March 11, 2014. Beside her is her husband Charley.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • A voter wears a vote patch at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme N.H., on March 11, 2014<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    A voter wears a vote patch at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme N.H., on March 11, 2014
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Simon Carr speaks at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H. on March, 11, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Simon Carr speaks at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H. on March, 11, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jill Muntz listens to a resident speaking at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H., on March 11, 2014. Beside her is her husband Charley. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • A voter wears a vote patch at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme N.H., on March 11, 2014<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Simon Carr speaks at the Lyme Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H. on March, 11, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Lyme — Without comments or questions, about 150 voters at Town Meeting unanimously approved a $2 million town operating budget for the fiscal year that began Jan. 1.

The budget is 2.1 percent, or $41,000, higher than the 2013 spending plan and is not expected to affect Lyme’s municipal property tax rate of $6.05 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Until an appropriation came up to lease a roller for maintaining dirt roads, attendees raised few questions and moved quickly through other spending articles on Tuesday’s warrant, approving almost $180,000 for roads and $433,401 for the capital reserve fund.

Although the five-year roller lease, at an annual cost of $18,000, was overwhelmingly approved, the article sparked a 10-minute debate that mostly centered on hauling and parking the 13.5-ton piece of equipment.

After that vote, the meeting moved quickly through additional spending approvals until voters were asked to grant the Selectboard permission to deposit revenue from the land use change tax, typically about $9,000 per year, into the general fund instead of the town’s land conservation fund.

Since it was established in 1993, more than $200,000 has accumulated in the conservation fund, which is used to purchase property and preserve open space, Selectboard Chairman Charles J. Smith said.

“If a large piece of land comes up for sale, then the fund can be used as a down payment until we find other funds,” Smith said .

Proponents argued that applying land use change tax revenue to the general fund would help reduce the property tax burden.

The proposal prompted a quick, but measured, response from a number of residents, who said open space and undeveloped farmland are important and make Lyme a more desirable place to live. Diverting the money to the general fund could jeopardize the effort to preserve land in the future.

“When a farm goes up for sale, we have to move quickly to save it, and the conservation fund allows us to do that,” resident Mike Smith said. “I’m against this.”

Dick Jones said the Selectboard previously made similar proposals — in 2000, 2005 and 2009 — and they have been defeated soundly each time.

“I’m really disappointed that it keeps coming up,” Jones said.

After more than 30 minutes of debate , the voters rejected the proposal by a ballot vote of 120-29.

Also Tuesday, voters approved an article asking the state Legislature to join 500 other municipalities in 16 other states in calling upon Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would regulate political spending and clarify that constitutional rights were established for natural persons only, not corporations or unions.

The article, a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling on political spending, is important because the only way to get Congress to curb political spending is by applying pressure from the ground up, state Rep. Beatriz Pastor, D-Lyme, said.

Selectman Richard A. Vidal, who is giving up his seat on the board, received a plaque commemorating his three years of service to the town.

The meeting adjourned after a brief discussion about the hours for lifeguards at Post Pond, which Moderator Kevin Peterson suggested was an issue better suited for a Recreation Commission meeting.

During all-day voting on the school ballot, residents elected two new members to three-years seats on the School Board. Paul Mayo and Steven Toulmin received 280 and 231 votes respectively, while Gregory J. Bogdanich received 117.

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