'08 town budget debate to begin; Lower revenues call for squeeze.


Byline: Kevin Keenan

SHREWSBURY - Moderator Kevin T. Byrne indoctrinated a dozen or so newly minted town meeting members last Thursday evening to the way generations of locals have settled town affairs - packed into a room to sweat through debate of the annual town budget.

Shrewsbury's annual town meeting begins tonight at 7 at the Oak Middle School auditorium. The room is air-conditioned, but not locked. People are free to come and go, without risking the wrath of a vengeful god - as long as a quorum of 120 souls remains inside.

If the warrant is not completed tonight the meeting will continue Wednesday night and, if necessary, Thursday night. Mr. Byrne suggested 10:30 p.m. as a cutoff point, after which, he said, "We'd need plenty of Dunkin' Donuts coffee" to stay awake.

The biggest debate centers on the annual budget. Mr. Byrne told the new members there "are no stupid questions. The people who've been here 20 years still ask stupid questions." But he reminded them that they are a legislative body, and he expected all members to behave appropriately, advising that personal attacks or criticisms of local advocacy groups will not be tolerated.

Mr. Byrne's warning comes on the heels of a contentious town election at which voters rejected a $5 million Proposition 2-1/2 override question, though turnout was the highest in recent memory and the vote was close.

About 51.4 percent voted no, while 47.6 percent voted yes. About 10,800 voters, 51.6 percent of the town's registered voters, cast ballots. Typically about a third of the town's registered voters cast...

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