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The Yankee Express

Dudley voters save public safety, schools and library

By Patty Roy

In a victory for town services, Dudley voters supported a Proposition 2 ½ override to on Aug. 17 to fund public safety, the Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library and the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District.
About 31 percent of voters turned out at the ballot box to decide five funding questions. Voters approved three of the five questions, turning down requests for the Highway Department and Town Hall administrative personnel.
Voters did agree to raise taxes by $556,111 to support the police and fire budgets, by a vote of 1660 in favor and 1057 opposed.
The library budget was approved at $297,528 to maintain its services with 1518 in favor and 1590 opposed.
The highway department request for $534,304 lost 1449 opposed to the expenditure and 1254 in favor.
Town hall administrative function spending was requested at $133,698 and failed with 1591 opposing and 1112 in favor. 
The approved questions add $1.21 to the $9.93 tax rate, which is an annual tax increase of $353.72  for the average single-family home. 
The Dudley-Charlton Regional School Committee action in June to assess Dudley $901,683 more than what was budgeted and approved at the annual May town meeting, threw the town’s FY24 budget out of balance.
The Board of Selectmen, Fire and Police Chiefs and Library Trustees said they were grateful for the support shown by voters.  
 “The Board of Selectmen is grateful that the majority of  Dudley voters decisively chose to support fire, police, education and to keep the public library open,´said Town Administrator Jonathan Ruda. “The voters’ support of three of the five questions ensures the community will maintain the high quality of services our residents deserve and expect. The Board of Selectmen has perennially maintained a position of providing the highest level of quality services that the Town can afford, and that guiding principle will continue in the weeks ahead.” 
Restoring services in departments affected by the budget cuts that were needed to reduce spending and balance the budget at the May annual town meeting and a special town meeting held in July. 
There were 32 possible funding outcomes based on the five menu-style questions presented on the ballot. The questions that passed will result in fully funding those budgets. Notices to rescind layoffs were issued August 18 for fire, police and library. 
“Over the course of the last five years, nothing has given me greater satisfaction than to have been able to sign the notices rescinding the layoff of police, fire and library staffing. It is not easy to ask residents to vote a raise in their own taxes. The wisdom of the voters to hear the message through all the 
noise demonstrated our community commitment by stepping-up for the common good,” Ruda said. “All the credit goes to the voters, the department heads and senior staff that kept the messaging professional.” 
The Highway Department question fell short by 195 votes at a time when the town is just three months away from the start of the winter season.  Still, the passage of the three other questions has freed-up revenue which will help to  restore funding to other priority services such as highway, Town Hall staffing and online services.  
Town officials have begun the process of preparing a supplemental budget. A balanced, supplemental budget that reflects the decisions made by voters at the polls will be presented at the October 16 Special Town Meeting.