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Saugus OKs snow bill plan; Unanimous vote sends 1-time tax request to State House

SAUGUS – Town Meeting members voted unanimously Monday to authorize the Board of Selectmen to move forward with a strategy to pay the outstanding $1.1 million bill for last winter’s snow and ice removal.Immediately after the 42-0 vote at Town Hall, the selectmen convened and voted as a block to send the proposed bill to the State House.Selectmen Chairman Donald Wong, who also serves as state representative to Saugus, said he planned to carry the certified document to Boston himself. The petition to the state Legislature asks permission for the town to hold a special election on June 7, at which residents can vote for or against the snow-and-ice repayment plan.Town Manager Andrew Bisignani said the bill can be paid through a one-time special assessment on property values, amounting to about $80 per single-family home. “This is not an override. It’s a one-time special assessment that does not stay on the tax bill,” the town manager said.Selectman Scott Crabtree spoke in favor of the special assessment. Based on Bisignani’s budget and information gleaned from meetings with Town Meeting members and the School Committee, the one-time property tax seems the solution, he said.”This is one idea that came out and makes a lot of sense,” said Crabtree. “Due to time constraints, it needs to be voted on and sent to the public. As an elected official, I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but I think it will help the community. I urge this body to support this article,” he said.Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian made the motion to take the vote. The actual vote, presided over by Town Moderator Robert Long, was taken by hand count. All 42 Town Meeting members present were in favor. Town Clerk Joanne Rappa quickly began preparing a certified copy of the bill for Wong to carry to the Legislature.”I’ll go in right away tomorrow morning,” Wong said.Although Bisignani was pleased by the unanimous support, he emphasized the special assessment does not solve the town’s financial dilemma. “We still need to generate new sources of revenue or we can’t maintain the present level of services.”If the Legislature allows Saugus to hold the June 7 election and voters decide against the one-time special assessment, the town would be forced to pay the $1.1-million bill with funds on hand and begin the process of trimming the fiscal 2012 budget to make up the difference.Without the funds, budget cuts to all departments would be inevitable, Bisignani said.Town Meeting used Monday’s night’s special meeting to welcome new Precinct 3 member Ronald G. Atkinson.

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