Seekonk High School building file photo

Voters will decide Monday whether to approve a $2.7 million tax hike to pay for a new artificial turf field at Seekonk High School.

SEEKONK — Residents passed a $66.5 million budget for the coming fiscal at Monday’s annual town meeting along with taking action to promote solar power.

About 130 residents turned out for the meeting in the high school auditorium.

It lasted nearly three hours despite just 15 articles on the warrant, with a lot of the session taken up by the budget.

The budget represents a 4.95% increase over this year’s spending.

Education takes up about half, or $32.2 million, of the budget, a 2.9% increase.

Local schools get $30.85 million, a $772,000 or 2.3% jump, but over half is covered by increased state aid.

The town’s assessment to Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin runs $1.2 million for 83 students.

For Seekonk schools, there are six new positions but three reductions for an added cost of $194,000, Superintendent Rich Drolet said.

An amendment proposed by resident Doreen Taylor to create a reserve fund for schools with $1 million from the school budget, which she contended would improve transparency, failed by a vote of 89-41.

Public safety expenses come in at $10.5 million, a 3.5% increase. The police and fire departments each have 40 full-timers. Another $40,000 has been added for overtime for the fire department, which is short six firefighters. But plans are moving along to fill the positions, Town Administrator Shawn Cadime said.

The DPW’s $1.8 million budget increased 8%, with a new employee added.

Town Clerk Florice Craig successfully requested an 8% increase over her slated $80,000 salary, citing other town clerks’ pay and increased duties with the position. The vote was 107-15.

The total town budget, approved 108-13, includes $2.9 million in debt payment, a 29% hike, for the Aitken School addition/renovations, phase 2 of the senior center project, and new South End fire station.

Voters also spent some time tackling a petition article from resident Sarah Jane Lapp, with the title of her presentation, “Let’s bring more solar love to Seekonk.”

The proposal, which passed 52-46, authorizes selectmen and school committee members to negotiate with parties for solar panel projects on town and school buildings and properties.

The petitioner said the intention was to streamline the process so the above action  doesn’t have to be approved by town meeting.

Voters at town meeting previously supported leasing the old landfill site for solar power, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet, and supporters of the petition article said they hope the new measure will move such projects along.

Cadime said the town is looking into expanding solar to other land and buildings as well.

About $1 million was supported for vehicles and equipment for town departments. That includes nearly $200,000 for wireless clocks and paging systems for schools as existing equipment can no longer be repaired.