Town Meeting: Newport rejects proposed $11.5 million operating budget

Bert Spaulding (Valley News photograph)

Bert Spaulding (Valley News photograph) Name hereAlex Driehaus

By PATRICK O'GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-15-2024 5:01 PM

NEWPORT — During all-day balloting Tuesday, voters elected Bert Spaulding Sr. to a three-year seat on the Selectboard, defeated the proposed budget and by just two votes, approved more than $1 million for the recreation facilities capital reserve fund.

Voters also defeated a $100,000 appropriation for the revaluation capital reserve fund, 378-264, but passed all other articles including $75,000 for the ambulance capital reserve fund, and funding for West Central Behavioral Health and Sullivan County Transportation.

In the only contested election on the ballot, Spaulding received 176 votes, which put him ahead of local businessman Doug Ring, 154; former Selectboard member Herb Tellor Jr., 145; and first-term incumbent Keith Sayer, 117.

Spaulding, 77, is retired. He has previously served on the Selectboard, as well as the town’s planning and school boards.

As a result of the 359-286 defeat of the proposed $11.5 million budget, the $10.8 million default budget will be implemented when the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

In a sign that the new recreation center, now under construction, remains controversial, voters narrowly approved putting $1.01 million in the recreation capital reserve fund, 325-323.

Of that total, $1 million will be repaid with state money, with only $10,000 raised through taxation. The governor’s Executive Council recently approved $1 million for Newport from the InvestNH fund for the 100 workforce housing units on Spring Street, which have been completed, and Sunapee Street, now under construction. The town also could receive $1 million through the state's Community Center Investment Program, though that funding remains uncertain.

The Newport Town Clerk’s office said Wednesday that a recount on the recreation capital reserve fund article is not automatic and has to be requested.

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In 2019 and 2022, voters rejected bond proposals to build a new community center on Meadow Road to replace an aging facility on Belknap Avenue. In 2023, the Selectboard moved ahead with plans without voter approval. It did not seek tax dollars and instead said it would raise close to $9 million with federal and state money, donations and cash.

Voter turnout Tuesday was 18%, or 650 of the town’s 3,521 registered voters.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.