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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hudson voters to weigh in on budgets, union contracts, elections on Town Meeting

HUDSON – Seventeen warrant articles and four contested races will greet Hudson voters Tuesday.

Voters who take part in the annual Town Meeting will act on the town’s $28.4 million operating budget proposal, as well as proposals to settle a pair of union contracts.

The budget proposal, about equal to the current year’s spending plan, would maintain the town’s tax rate of $5.18 per $1,000 of assessed value, town officials said.

Meanwhile, the two union contracts – one for police, fire and town supervisors and one for the town’s support staff – would cost a combined $140,000 over the next two years.

Both contracts would provide the employees – 27 under the supervisors union and 20 support staff – with a $1,500 raise in the first year and a $1,000 raise in the second rather than the traditional percentage increases.

“We have created, and continue to create when we do (percentage raises), a widening gap between the person at the top and the person at the bottom,” Shawn Jasper, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said last month at the town’s Deliberative Session.

“In an attempt to end that, we have gone to a different model, which is to give all employees in the bargaining unit the same raise.”

If passed, the supervisors contract would cost the town $50,201 in the first year and $35,868 in the second.

The support staff contract, which covers secretaries and custodians, among other workers, would cost the town $29,866 in the first year and $25,709 in the second.

Other spending proposals cover the town warrant, including articles proposing $165,000 for a new ambulance, $300,000 to go to the town Senior Center reserve fund and $500,000 for road paving.

“We’re falling way behind (on paving) because of the rising prices of oil and pavement,” Steve Malizia, the town administrator, said last week. “At this rate, it would take us 200 years to pave every street.”

Among other proposals, voters will face three zoning amendments and a pair of petitioned articles proposing to charge nonresidents for parking at Benson Park and to reward Hudson employees for reducing town spending.

Resident Robinson Smith introduced the articles in hopes of encouraging efficiency and savings in town government and to bring money into Benson Park.

“We just want to make sure the park is cared for and continues to be cared for,” he said.

Neither proposal drew much support at the Deliberative Session.

“I’m offended by the implication of the article,” Jasper said at the time, referring to the town spending proposal. “There is no waste, fraud or abuse that has ever been brought to the Board of Selectmen’s attention regarding any of the employees that we have working for us today.”

Jasper is one of two selectmen running for re-election. He and Ben Nadeau are seeking another term on the board, but they face competition from four challengers: Richard Kahn, Normand Martin, Anthony Martino and Nancy Brucker.

Voters will cast votes for two of the six candidates.

Among the other contested races on the ballot, Stuart Schneiderman, Lisa Donovan and Kevin Riley are in the running for supervisor of the checklist. Four candidates – Harry Schibanoff, Erin Cannamucio, Brooke Lambert and Gary Rodgers – are in the running for town treasurer, and two, William Cole and incumbent Edmond Duchesne, are facing off for trustee of the trust fund.

On the school side, voters will act on the district’s $45.8 million budget. The proposal is about $800,000, or 1.8 percent, more than the current spending plan, but would add about 46 cents to the school portion of the tax rate.

The other two warrant articles going before voters Tuesday involve union contracts.

School Board members have negotiated three-year contract agreements for district secretaries and custodians, among other workers.

Neither contract includes any salary increase over the life of the pact, although both include sick day incentives.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or