Mayor takes heat for budget vote

Boyce was dissenting voice for $7.9 million budget

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— Mayor Phil Boyce was in the hot seat when a few members of the public demanded an answer at the May 12 council meeting as to why he voted against this year’s budget.

On April 28, Boyce was the dissenting vote to adopt the 2014 municipal budget, stating that he could not vote for the $96 increase per household that taxpayers will see.

The $7.9 million budget was adopted due to the four votes in favor from his fellow committee members.

Council candidate Jack Burke, who is running against Boyce and Deputy Mayor Dolores Blackburn for a committee seat in the June 3 republican primary, raised the question during the first public portion of the meeting.

Burke asked Boyce why he was the only person to object to the budget.

“I began to watch over a 30-day period what other towns were doing,” said Boyce. “Because Andover was the highest of them all I voted no for my conscience.”

Boyce was referring to the 30-day period when he supported the budget during public hearings. This year the committee opted to have several budget workshops prior to the vote allowing the public to be a part of the process as well as all members of the committee.

When Boyce asked if anyone had a problem with his decision, committee member Tom Walsh said he did.

“We did this as a team. We all had ample opportunity to take [the budget] down, but to grandstand and vote against it was a disservice to the committee,” Walsh said.

The exchange between Boyce and Walsh became heated when Boyce told Walsh he doesn’t answer to him, but to the public. Walsh went on to press Boyce as to why he didn’t come up with a solution.

“I don’t answer to you. And [Burke] is running for the seat, so it’s obvious why he is asking the question,” Boyce said.

Andover resident Stan Christodlous also demanded more answers from Boyce.

“What did you ask to be cut in that meeting? Why did you vote against the budget when in years past you used to say the increase is the cost of a cup of coffee a day?” Christodlous asked.

When Boyce went on to say he won’t answer, Christodlous said “Why don’t you answer my question? I am not running against you.”

Boyce said he did not want to get into a public discussion, but then likened his mayoral role to being a sitting duck and to that he was now ready to be “hit” with any questions.

Christodlous remained unsatisfied with Boyce’s responses and asked what the actual cuts Boyce would recommend.

Boyce repeated his defense of voting against the budget because it was the highest increase of all the municipalities in Sussex County.

Boyce said he believes that although a flat budget was not attainable and therefore he has voted for increases in the past, the 2014 increase was double last year’s $54 increase per average household, and that was not conceivable to him.

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