GLOCESTER – When town residents first voted on Glocester’s 2022 budget in August, only 203 people weighed in, and the referendum failed by just seven votes. It marked the first rejection of the town’s annual fiscal plan in decades – or at least as long as anyone seems to remember.
Since then, town officials have been hard at work – first making some minor changes to the proposal – and then educating voters as to why it should pass.
“We got the word out,” said Town Council President William Reichert. “I called people and them: you have to get out and vote.”
Reichert and other officials utilized the town website, social media and the Code Red alert system, both to notify residents to cast a ballot, and to let them know exactly what the proposal would mean for their annual tax bills.
And judging by Tuesday’s results, the efforts worked.
The new budget passed with flying colors by a vote of 468-108.
Reichert noted that while there were a few adjustments to the council’s second fiscal plan, the change in outcome was mostly due to an initial misunderstanding of the numbers.
“A lot of it was just people thinking the budget was going up 15 percent,” he said. “It went up 26 cents.”
The confusion came as a result of how the town’s largest taxpayer – FM Global – was categorized in budget documents. The company’s PILOT agreement expired this year, and while a new agreement is still under negotiation, the payment for 2022 was shown as an addition to the tax base.
Councilors did make minor cuts and adjustments before putting the plan back before voters, including elimination of a $10,000 raise for the chief of police. But Reichert noted that ultimately, there were no cuts to town services or staffing from the first budget.
“We ended up having enough funding without any major changes,” he said. “Basically, the budget is pretty much intact. It was all just semantics.”
For FM Global, Reichert noted that councilors have hired New Hampshire-base Sansoucy Associates to perform a full assessment of the company’s assets, to be completed prior to next year’s budget cycle.
“I think we’re going to be really pleased with the results,” he said.
For now, he said, he’s relieved that it passed, and that the town can move on from what was an undeniably unusual budget process.
“I’m happy we got it done,” he said.