Georgetown residents voted to approve the town’s new $1.68 million spending plan, down about $108,000 from previous spending, during the annual town meeting Saturday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

About 80 Georgetown residents voted to adopt a proposed $1.68 million municipal spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year during the annual town meeting Saturday.

The new budget is roughly $108,000, or 6%, less than the previous one, but town officials are unsure how that decrease will impact the town’s tax rate, which currently sits at $8.10 per $1,000 of value. This means a home valued at $200,000 gets a $1,620 tax bill.

According to Select Board Chair Richard Donaldson, a new property tax rate will be set in the fall after an assessor calculates the rate based on the municipal, county and school budgets.

Residents debated the largest increase in the budget — a request to allocate $100,000 to begin a renovation project for the First Church — but the request was ultimately approved by a show-of-hands vote.

The town acquired the church in 2006, but it has sat unused since. Donaldson said the town plans to make it a future meeting place, but needs to replace windows, install a new heating system and bathroom, update the wiring system to broadcast public meetings, and make the building handicap accessible.

In a notice to residents, town officials wrote they found public engagement increased when public meetings were broadcast through Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents who spoke at the meeting said they were in favor of renovating the church so it could be used by the town, but they didn’t like how the proposed ordinance was worded because they didn’t know exactly how the $100,000 would be used.

“That $100,000 as it’s put out here is really not distinguishing between a planning phase where we may look at what our needs are and look at different options and a construction phase,” said resident Carlos Barrionuevo.

Selectman Bronwen Tudor said the town needs to set aside the $100,000 to be used as seed money for federal funding they’re hoping to get through the American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 pandemic-induced stimulus package, other state funding or grants.

“If the money is not expended by the end of this fiscal year, it will be preserved in the reserve fund specifically for that building,” said Tudor. “It’s the intent of the select board to come back to you with a specific plan and to hold hearings on that plan ahead of time. We feel the urgency to ask for this money at this point in time so we can get started on all of those things and not lose the opportunities that are presenting themselves this particular year.

Some residents asked the select board to ensure certain elements of the church remain intact, such as the pews, but the board said that may not be possible to make the building handicap accessible and suit the building’s future as a meeting space.

The decrease in the new budget compared to last year’s was driven mainly from a $120,000 drop in the general government account. The town had previously budgeted that amount last year to cover the cost of purchasing Todd’s Landing, a public boat launch, but the town doesn’t need to set aside those expenses this year, according to Donaldson.

The town’s roads budget also dipped $103,000 from last year, stemming from a reduced need to repave roads compared to previous years.

“The roads are in better condition than we expected, so we don’t need to repave them as robustly as we thought,” said Donaldson.

Residents also approved the proposed $2.57 million school budget Saturday, up around $30,000, or 1.2%, from last year, according to budget documents. That increase is driven mainly by a nearly $25,000 increase in the funding for special education instruction and a roughly $11,000 rise in student and staff support costs.


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