CHARLESTOWN – Charlestown voters approved a nearly $29.6 million budget for fiscal 2014 Monday.
While only 238 of the town’s 6,150 registered voters turned out to vote, of the 238, 146 voted yes on the budget and 92 voted no, Town Clerk Amy Rose Weinreich confirmed Tuesday.
The newly passed budget will raise the property tax rate by 16 cents from $9.30 to $9.46 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The budget also includes $2.3 million, which will be used to retire the town’s debt on the Charlestown police station.
At a Charlestown Town Council meeting last month, Council President Tom Gentz stated that according to auditors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the debt on the police station would have to be refinanced regardless of whether it was retired.
“We talked to a USDA funder who suggested we refinance it at a higher interest rate,” Gentz said last month. “This really is a good thing and by doing this, this is a long term saving.”
Gentz said Tuesday that he was pleased that voters passed the budget in Monday’s referendum.
“I’m very happy with the fact that the voters approved the budget,” he said. “In my opinion, this budget deserved to be passed and I’m pleased the voters felt that way as well.”
Gentz also expressed his gratitude toward the budget commission, Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz, Town Treasurer Patricia Anderson and Councilor Daniel Slattery for their work on the budget.
“They were forward thinking in the decision to pay off the police station,” Gentz said. “That will save the taxpayers some money down the line.”
While he is glad that the budget passed, Gentz said he wished more voters turned out for the referendum.
“I’d always like to see more people,” Gentz said. “This is a Democracy and people should tell their elected officials how they feel.”
Gentz also pointed out the particular importance of this vote given what’s going on with the Chariho Regional School District budget.
“It’s especially poignant,” Gentz said.
There is continuing controversy over the school district’s proposed $56.8 million budget, as of May 29, which has been rejected in two referenda.
In the Charlestown referendum Monday, voters approved Charlestown’s $14.4 million contribution to the Chariho budget, which is nearly $4 million less than the more than $18 million for which Richmond and Hopkinton are each responsible.
With an additional $54,000 in cuts made at last week’s school committee meeting, as it stands, the towns’ total contribution to the Chariho budget is $51.4 million. If the budget is voted down in a final referendum June 18, the towns will level-fund at last year’s contribution of $51.5 million.