Salem Voters Go To Ballot Box For First Time On Town Budget

Mar 11, 2013

Some communities, like Salem, will decide on budget issues at the ballot box
Credit Tracy Lee Carroll / NHPR

It’s Town Meeting time in New Hampshire.   Salem is one of the state’s biggest towns, and this is its first year moving away from the classic community get-together to the ballot box.  The town expects this change to increase voter turnout tomorrow as it considers major budget issues.

Among the articles on the slate for voters to consider is Salem’s operating budget.  Town Manager Keith Hickey says all it needs is a simple majority to pass.  And he says a lot is riding on voters approving the proposed $37.5 million budget.    

“If the operating budget article fails, then we could move to a default which is about $600,000 less than the proposed budget, which would be catastrophic, in my mind,” Hickey says.

He says the default budget would hit staffing levels, and services from public safety to trash pickup would be “on the table” for cuts. Hickey argues that if the new budget were to pass, property taxes would still go down two cents per thousand dollars. 

But Salem residents will also have to decide on more than $6.5 million in bond issues to repair red-listed bridges and do road improvements. 

Sixty percent of voters will have to agree on the bond articles.