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Canton voters pass budget at second referendum

By John Fitts

CANTON – Voters, by a tally of 984-824 passed the town budget at referendum June 4. The 2024-25 spending plan is $48,611,346, a 3.99 % increase over the approved 2023-24 spending plan.

The mill rate for personal property and real estate will be 34.15. The motor vehicle mill rate will be 32.46 – the maximum allowed by the state.

Turnout was 1,808 of the 7,807 eligible voters - or 23.2 percent.

"I’m very pleased with the results of the referendum, which passed by almost nine points with very strong 23% voter turnout," said Board of Finance chair Katie Kenney. "It was great to have so many citizens on both sides who got involved, studied the budget, asked questions, and came out to vote. Ultimately, the clear majority understood that this was a sound, responsible budget – and, critically, that the vast majority of the budget increase was the result of non-discretionary spending outside of the town’s control, and that the Board of Finance and other elected boards had worked hard to minimize costs to the taxpayer while at the same time maintaining as much as possible the quality of our school system and town services."

"Parents came out and supported the budget and I'm thrilled that they did that," Board of Education Chairman Lou Daniels said. "I was really having some angst that if this didn't pass that we were going to have to dramatically change the way we were educating our children in town, number one, and number two, all the investment over the years into making our district great was going to fall to the wayside. So, I'm thrilled that the parents came out to support the budget and it's great for kids. And that's who the Board of Education represents. We represent the children, our students, and I think this is good for them. So, we move forward."

The 2024-25 spending breakdown is as follows:

The mill rate for personal property and real estate will be 34.15. Property owners can figure out their taxes by taking the assessed value of their property (which is 70% of market value) and multiplying the number by the mill rate and dividing that number by 1,000. However, keep in mind that phase in.

The motor vehicle mill rate will be 32.46 – the maximum allowed by the state.

It's been a contentious budget season, complicated by a revaluation that resulted in sharp increases overall in home values, shifting more of the tax burden to homeowners - even with a lower mill rate to adjust as other grand list categories had less growth and even decreases in some cases. Along the way the town voted to phase in those new values over a four-year period.

Voters defeated the first budget proposal on May 7 by a tally of 944-689. That plan would have represented a 5.57 % increase in spending. Subsequently, the Board of Finance voted to trim the proposal to the 3.99 % increase. To get to that level, the finance board trimmed $741,928 from the previous proposal.

Residents have been also been active on social media - and at budget meetings - with continued sparring over the budget, with some residents advocating deeper cuts - as low as a flat budget - and others contending such a move would greatly hurt town and school services. The budget process also involved some partisan politics as there was some tension among some elected officials, as well as vastly different messaging on the town committee pages.


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