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Bedford voters OK $25.9m budget

BEDFORD - Residents took less than an hour to approve the $25,931,299 town budget at the town's budgetary town meeting on Wednesday.

Bedford households will see a 30-cent increase per thousand dollars of assessed home value, which amounts to about $120 on a $400,000 home.

Town Manager Jessie Levine said the increases, which go toward the state retirement system, repayment of a previously approved infrastructure bond and contractual obligations, were beyond the town's control.

One amendment was made to the budget, which increased the Public Works Building Maintenance line by $40,000, which will pay for the removal of ceiling tiles of the barn at the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill.

Voters approved the withdrawal of funds from the Land Reserve Fund to cover the expense, and there will be no tax impact.

Several unsuccessful attempts to increase the police department's budget were made by resident Kathy Benuck, who first moved to add $138,000 to the department's patrol line for the purpose of adding three additional police officers for the second half of the year.

Benuck said a study eight years ago indicated that there should be 40 uniformed officers in Bedford, and despite town growth, there are only 33.

"I think it's outrageous that we are being deprived," Benuck said.

Benuck's motion to fund three additional officers failed, as did motions to add funding for two officers, then one.

Levine said the town was able to present a slightly reduced budget than anticipated because some items were taken out of the upcoming budget and paid for with a surplus from 2012 - a six-wheeler dump truck for the Department of Public Works, a pickup truck for the Fire Department and a new walkway for the library.

The budget includes the addition of one new police officer and a half-year payment for a full-time planning assistant, as well as full funding for a DPW engineer.

Also included in the budget is $146,000 in merit raises for non-union employees and $368,000 in capital outlays that will be partially offset by capital reserve funds.

A $750,000 increase in the Fire Department budget is expected to be completely offset by grant money, with $301,000 for swift water rescue already received.

An additional $450,000 is included for a new fire engine, but if the grant money is not received, the money will not be spent.

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