Inflation – not snow – was the dirty word in Dunbarton Tuesday night

By JONATHAN VAN FLEET

Monitor staff

Published: 03-16-2023 6:43 PM

Inflation was the dirty word of the night in Dunbarton. 

“This was a difficult year,” Selectmen Chairman Michael Kaminski told the sparse crowd of about 30 residents who drove to Town Meeting despite Tuesday’s storm. “Inflation killed us.”

Inflation drove up costs on just about everything, Kaminski said, including employee compensation, utilities, fuel, supplies and even trash disposal. The town operating budget grew by nearly $500,000 over the year before, an increase of about 15%. In addition to inflation, necessary maintenance on town property and a bond payment for road work were big budget drivers.

By using existing unassigned funds, the tax rate impact was blunted to about 90 cents, which equals an extra $315 a year for a home worth $350,000.

But town taxes are just one piece of the tax-bill puzzle. On Saturday voters approved the school budget that carried a tax increase triple the size of the town budget.

Dunbarton residents ultimately approved every item on both the town and school budgets. All told, town and school tax bills will increase an estimated $1,400 a year for a home valued at $350,000 home.

Sarah Andrews had questions about the town budget but by the time she sat down around 7:20 p.m., voters had already passed the budget by a show of hand 10 minutes earlier.

Many towns throughout the state postponed voting during the day and annual meetings at night Tuesday because of the storm.

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“Maybe this should have been postponed,” she said. “There’s a lot of people missing. I feel this was a poor decision.”

During the day, 103 people showed up at the polls to cast ballots, a turnout of about 4.5% of 2,232 voters.

At the end of the night, Selectman David Nault gave an update on the town library construction project. The elevator was due to be tested earlier in the day Tuesday, but first one of the technicians had to be pulled out of the snow by Nault and one of the town plows.

After some delay, the elevator was loaded with 1,400 pounds, its maximum weight, and the test was set to begin. Then the power went out. Nault told people to stay tuned for further updates.

No town meeting in Dunbarton would be complete without the election of the hog reeves for the following year.

Electing a hog reeve has fallen out of fashion in most New England towns. It was one of the earliest elected positions to exist in colonial America with an important job: to keep residents’ pigs from running amok. Dunbarton has kept the tradition alive for more than 250 years and typically gives the job to a couple who was married the previous year.

Two couples were nominated – Steven Mullen and Kristen Schools Condon as well as Cameron Lepage and Heather Murphy. Rather than face a bitter fight for the coveted position, voters gave the job to both couples.

“Unfortunately, they’re not here,” said Moderator John Trottier. “They’ll need to report to the town clerk and get sworn in.”

Trottier thanked the previous year’s hog reeves for their service.

“They did a fine job” he said. “I didn’t see any hogs running around town.”

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