BELGRADE — It’s the annual Town Meeting, but the 2021 version brings a new twist.

The 29 article warrant will be voted on entirely by secret ballot this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Polls will be open for Belgrade’s 2,869 registered voters from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday at the Center for All Seasons.

“We do feel that it is the safest option for us at this point,” Belgrade Town Manager Anthony Wilson said. “That public health concern is paramount right now.”

Belgrade did a secret ballot last year when the Town Meeting was delayed at the outset of the pandemic until July. Last year’s warrant had 55 articles, but this year’s has 29. That’s on purpose.

“That’s just to make sure people are not spending an inordinate amount of time in the polling booth on election day,” Wilson said.

The town offered absentee ballots from Feb. 19 through 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Of the 250 absentee ballots requested, 155 had been returned as of Monday morning. The absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. Saturday either to the town office drop box or the Center for All Seasons. Belgrade residents are voting on a $2,970,224 budget, a 0.9% decrease from 2020. The budget is “very vanilla, no frills,” Wilson said.

“The economic uncertainty that we’re facing remains,” Wilson said. “Our financial experience in 2020 was better than we expected from a revenue standpoint.”

For example, the town collected about $64,000 more in excise taxes than expected. Save for municipal revenue sharing, all revenue categories met or exceeded budget expectations.

There are three candidates running for two seats on the town’s board of selectpersons. Incumbent Ernst Merckens is back on the ballot, but Kathleen Wall is not. Cory Alexander and Barbara Allen are also running for a spot.

Article 8 includes a proposed moorings ordinance. The ordinance seeks to prevent commercial houseboats and a proliferation of moorings on the lake shores. There is one mooring allowed for every 50 feet of shoreline.

“What we’re trying to do is twofold. One is to ensure that moorings do not impede safe navigation on our lakes,” Wilson said. “We’re also seeking just to preserve and protect the character and integrity of our lakes, because they are the defining characteristic of our community, the economic engine and also what drives our recreational opportunities here and the beauty and aesthetic of Belgrade itself.”

Article 13 includes the first full year of a fire and safety partnership with the town of Rome. Included in the budget is funding for a second full-time firefighter for Belgrade, but Rome contributes to the cost because of the partnership.

Article 14 includes a $20,000 increase for road maintenance to prepare the roads the town anticipates paving in 2022. It will come from the town’s undesignated fund. The town decreased the sand and salt budget by the same amount.

Using the undesignated fund for one-time costs like the roads and replacement of playground equipment at the North Belgrade Community Center in article 16 decreases the amount of taxes the town has to raise.

Article 20 is for the town’s recreation department. The article is written so it assumes revenues will be flat but expenses up, which is an unlikely scenario. The proposed budget is for $159,070.

“If we aren’t able to have the programming we’d like to have, then we simply won’t spend those dollars,” Wilson said.

Article 23, capital reserves, includes $100,000 for the fire and rescue capital reserve and well contamination remediation funds.

Articles 26-29, perpetuity articles, may appear confusing “but are simply housekeeping matters,” Wilson said.


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