Annual Town Meeting voters approved a $79.3 million operating budget Monday night after a quick overview and with little debate.
The spending plan includes a 2.5 percent increase for hourly rated employees, such as inspectors and department assistants, and 1.25 percent raises for other hourly workers, including program coordinators and clerks. The budget was crafted over several months by various town committees and boards, before its presentation to Town Meeting, where elected representatives have the final say-so.
The 2011-12 town budget includes -- an increase of $1 million -- , and $3.4 million for fire protection.
The budget, a 3 percent increase, was among the first articles decided in a town meeting that lasted more than three hours.
Led by Moderator Michael Noferi, 139 elected town representatives participated in the 2011 Annual Town Meeting.
Finance Committee chairman Jerry Hiatt, the first public official to speak, said overall, Milford is in an enviable position among communities in Massachusetts because of the stability of its finances. Many municipalities in the state have shrinking budgets, and have had to lay off employees.
"We feel pretty good about the budget," Hiatt told the voters, in his overview. "The operative word is, we're stable."
A few of the 38 articles on the warrant were pulled back by their sponsors. Only one article drew an extended debate, concerning whether the town Finance Committee should be reduced in size to 11 members, or remain at 15.
After a 30-minute debate, Town Meeting voters defeated the article. The Finance Committee is the appointed body that reviews town spending, including the annual budget. Milford selectmen would fill any vacancies.
Selectmen argued a smaller committee would bring more efficiency. The move was opposed by the Finance Committee, which favored keeping the body at its current 15-member structure to assure consistency as members depart. The committee currently is down two members. "Typically, the best of the 15 are the ones you'll lose," Hiatt said.
In other decisions, voters also:
- Approved a $50,000 boost to the $283,000 spent so far for engineering, consulting and legal expenses relating to a cleanup of environmental hazards on town land near the , and behind the Benjamin Moore Co. property.
- Agreed in a 144-1 vote to purchase for $113,000, for expansion of open space near the Upper Charles River trail. The property includes a house that will be razed. The property recently was appraised at $194,000, according to town officials.
- Approved a new measure that on to sidewalks or public ways, unless they get permission from public safety officials. Violators face a $100 fine.