PITTSTON — Voters at Saturday’s annual Town Meeting decided to exempt active-duty military residents from paying vehicle excise taxes and threw their financial support behind the town’s annual fair.

Residents moved quickly, taking about 90 minutes to pass all 35 articles in the warrant. None of the articles generated more than moments of debate.

The total 2012 municipal budget of $373,000 is up roughly $7,700 from last year’s. Most of the increase is the result of a bump in general assistance and road work, Treasurer Rose Webster said.

To qualify for the excise tax exemption, military men and women will need approval from their commanding officers and must be on active duty. The law will affect few residents, but the question garnered wide support because of the show of support it gives to troops.

Resident Tim Lawrence questioned the effect the change would have on revenue returning to the town.

“Won’t we be further behind?” he said.

Most of the 50 or so residents at the meeting, however, voiced their appreciation of the military, and the question earned overwhelming support.

“I don’t know about the rest of the room, but if I have to make up the difference for someone serving overseas not paying their excise taxes, I’m happy to do it,” Selectman Ike Peppard said.

Voters rejected selectmen’s attempts to reduce funding to the Pittston Fair Association and charitable organizations by 20 percent. The board talked about eliminating funding for the fair but decided reduce it instead.

“The fair brings people to our town,” Peppard said.

Resident Bob Bender Sr. argued in favor of full funding for the five charitable organizations – Chrysalis Place, Spectrum Generations, Family Violence Project, Kennebec Valley Behavorial Health and Sexual Assault Crisis – instead of the 20 percent reduction recommended by selectmen. Without the organizations in place, the town would be forced to provide additional services at a greater cost, Bender said.

Voters ultimately agreed to give the full $3,000 requested by the fair association and the $8,700 requested by the charitable organizations.

Residents briefly debated the merits of charging 7 percent interest for those who are late in paying their property taxes. A motion to reduce the penalty to 5 percent was withdrawn after Selectwoman Wanda Burns-Macomber explained the steps the town takes to work with property owners.

Lawrence scolded the board for reducing the payment to those who pay their taxes early from 2 percent last year to 1.5 percent this year.

“It sounds like incrementally you’re getting rid of the discount,” Lawrence said.

Residents argued that the incentive saves the town money because it gets its tax money sooner and thus has to borrow less to pay its bills before the official due date.

Peppard said the incentive always has been controversial.

“The fact we’re still doing it is noteworthy,” he said.

The town election is scheduled for 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the Town Office. Three people are vying for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. Peppard is up against Timothy Marks and Daniel Myshrall Jr. for the three-year term.

Other residents who have turned in nomination papers are:

* Incumbent Tom Farkas, running against Penny Poolman for the Regional School Unit 11 school board seat;

* Marlene Colvin, unopposed for her seat on the Planning Board;

* William Huberg, seeking re-election as an alternate Planning Board member;

* Jean Myshrall and Theodore Zagwyn, running for the Personnel Board; and

* S. Larry Ireland, seeking re-election to the position of East Pittston Water District Director.

No one took out nomination papers for three vacant slots on the Budget Committee.

Staff Writer Mechele Cooper contributed to this report.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]


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