PORTSMOUTH — By a 4-1 vote, the Town Council gave final approval Monday night to a $57.88 million budget that increases the tax levy by 2.4 percent.
The budget will result in a tax rate of $15.79 per $1,000 of assessed value under the new revaluation of town property that was completed recently.
The sole council member voting against the budget was Elizabeth Pedro, who reiterated her previous objections to the $30.8 million appropriation for the School Department.
Ms. Pedro said it was unfair that the schools receive a $600,000 increase despite having a large surplus “year after year.” Meanwhile, the police, fire and public works departments are routinely underfunded, she said.
“I think the other departments are being seriously neglected,” said Ms. Pedro.
She also pointed out that during a budget workshop in May when the school, fire, police and public works departments discussed their respective spending plans, school officials walked out after their presentation and didn’t listen to the other department heads.
School Committee Chairman David Croston responded by saying that although the town’s appropriation for the schools is increasing by 1.9 percent, the entire school budget is growing by only .8 percent.
State aid to the district is being slashed by about $240,000 annually, and the schools have cut the equivalent of nearly 12 teaching positions from next year’s budget, said Mr. Croston.
After Town Clerk Joanne Mower read the two-page ordinance related to the levy and collection of taxes that’s required by law — she finished it in 10 minutes flat — the council voted 4-1 to approve the budget.
You can view the entire budget on the town’s website at www.portsmouthri.com.
Council members Keith Hamilton and Michael Buddemeyer were absent from Monday’s meeting.