RICHMOND — Residents approved town budget warrant articles expected to result in a property tax decrease Tuesday night at the Town Meeting.

Debate was hottest on funding for the library and summer recreation program.

Residents approved nearly every item put before them in the municipal budget.

The municipal budget is down about 7.6 percent. Town officials anticipate the tax rate will decrease from $19.30 for every $1,000 of property value to about $19.00 per $1,000, about a 2 percent decrease.

For the owner of a $100,000 home, that would mean a tax bill of $1,900, down by $30. That’s despite a projected 4.5 percent, or $119,000, increase in Richmond’s $3 million share of the Regional School Unit 2 school budget, which was approved initially by district voters Monday and will go to voters June 9 in a school budget validation referendum.

The municipal budget of $2.1 million is down by $164,000 from the current year’s budget.

Peter Warner, chairman of the selectmen, said one reason the budget is down is that last year the town made the last payment on a debt that had cost it about $250,000 per year. He also said new Town Manager Janet Smith worked hard with the department heads and selectmen to bring in a tight budget.

“The board is committed to try to save money any way we can,” Warner said to the approximately 70 people in attendance. “We’ve written off some debt, so that’s a payment we no longer have to make. We’d like to take some of that money and use it for road improvements. We’ll still save a portion of it to reduce the tax commitment. We’re not going to use all of it.”

One new big-ticket item proposed this year — and the road improvements Warner referred to — was a proposal to spend $200,000 to pave dirt portions of Stable, Parks, Knickerbocker and Weeks roads and Lincoln and Spruce streets. The paving of the dirt sections of road would be in addition to $90,000 in the capital outlay budget — the same amount spent last year — for paving projects on paved roads.

Selectman David Thompson said officials talked to some residents of the roads to make sure they wanted them paved. He said the roads can get so bad some times of year they are hard on town public works vehicles, causing them to get stuck.

Russ Hughes, the local postmaster, said some dirt roads are so bad that mail service to them, especially Weeks Road, is suspended during the time of year when the roads are at their worst.

Voters passed the proposal by a large margin.

In heated debate about funding for the summer recreation program, residents approved the Budget Committee’s recommended $16,088, not the selectmen’s recommendation of $21,535.

Sharon Chesley, who has taught arts and crafts in the program for seven years, said summer recreation serves an average of 70 children per summer for three half-days a week for five weeks and offers activities such as swimming lessons, field trips, games and gymnasium time.

She said if the lower budget committee recommendation were adopted, the program probably would have to cut either swimming or field trips. She said it is important for children to learn how to swim.

Some residents said they think some summer recreation workers, especially the director, make too much money, and the program needs to limit spending the way other town programs do.

Others said the town shouldn’t cut funding for children.

The vote appeared close with residents narrowly adopting the lower $16,088 figure.

Residents added an amendment to the warrant directing selectmen and town administrators to include on next year’s warrant information with each warrant article explaining the amount and reason for expenditures included within that article. On a motion from resident Alice Knapp, they also directed town officials to include information next year about how much each town employee gets paid.

“I’m glad to see the budget isn’t going up,” Knapp said. “My only gripe with the information presented is the single biggest budget item in all municipal government is payroll. But in each area, we just get this lump sum. I think it’s important every year we be told exactly who our employees are and what they’re paid.”

Voters rejected a motion from Mike Gritzkevitch Sr. to require users of the library to pay $5 a year with the payment capped at $20 a year per family.

“I have to pay to go into the dump, or rubbish disposal area, and we have to pay to go to the beach … ,” Gritzkevitch said. “Why shouldn’t people pay to use the library? You want to use it? Be generous. Help pay for it.”

Three selectmen said they opposed that motion, including Clarence Cummins, who noted many who use the library have low incomes, and a fee could be a barrier to them using the library.

“There is a tradition in this country that we have free libraries,” Cummins said. “It’s one of the last refuges where people can use a computer, read books without having to pay something. I think a library is a great investment for a town and we don’t need to have another fee.”

Residents overwhelmingly rejected the amendment and approved the requested $39,160 budget for the library.

The Town Meeting will be followed by elections June 9 with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the high school. All races for local positions on the ballot are uncontested.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj