$12.7M budget tops town meeting warrant.

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Byline: Paula J. Owen

ASHBURNHAM - Voters tomorrow have 24 articles to get through at town meeting, including proposals for a $12.7 million town operating budget, a $437,000 capital budget and an amendment to the town's regional school agreement with Westminster.

Town meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the auditorium at Oakmont Regional High School, 9 Oakmont Drive.

The town's $12.7 million proposed operating budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, includes an approximate $155,000 increase in the police budget. Cushing Academy will partly reimburse the town for the increase, said Town Administrator Douglas C. Briggs.

Mr. Briggs said it is the first time the private high school has offered to pay for a police officer's salary. If the increase is passed, Cushing will pay around $85,000 a year for the next three years for the salary and benefits of an additional police officer to ensure there are two officers working on all shifts, he said.

Cushing officials, he said, are concerned about the town having only one officer on duty during the night shift.

"The town will have better coverage, and though it doesn't guarantee Cushing any coverage, it enhances the chances someone will be there to answer their call," Mr. Briggs said.

The other additional funding in the police budget will pay for a lieutenant's position, he said.

The Fire Department's budget request increases funding over the current fiscal year only by about $25,000. Mr. Briggs said the additional money partly pays for 3 percent wage increases for on-call firefighters, EMTs and paramedics, who haven't received increases in several years. The cost of the wage increases, he said, is

partly offset by projected additional ambulance revenues from fee increases.

The Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District's total budget is $27.9 million, including more than $10 million from the state and funding requests for around $6.3 million from Ashburnham and $9 million from Westminster.

Superintendent Ralph E. Hicks said the school committee voted Wednesday night to...

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