By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard approved the operating budget and the town meeting warrant at its meeting on Tuesday, 5/2.
Selectboard chair Kevin Gaspar and board member Michael Cioper heaped praise upon Town Administrator Brian Noble, saying that past budget processes often involved acrimonious debates and “bickering” to use Mr. Gaspar’s word.
Board member Roger Cabral said he wanted to make sure that the budget would be available for residents to see before town meeting on June 5. Mr. Noble said it would be posted on the website on Tuesday, 5/9. Mr. Cabral said he was concerned about a “dramatic change” in one of the departments.
The town clerk’s budget involves an increase to make the town clerk position full time. The changes were discussed in the Finance Committee meeting.
The number of people in the office will stay the same, said Mr. Noble after the meeting. The configuration will change. The town clerk will become full time, with two part time office workers. Before this change, the office had a full time office person, a part time office person and a part time town clerk.
When full-timer Rachel Charbonneau decided to go part time, it created the perfect opportunity to make the change, said Mr. Noble in a follow-up interview. He noted that Ms. Labonte’s pay rate will not change, just her hours.
According to town clerk Pamela Labonte, the job has become more and more demanding over time.
Mr. Noble agreed, saying that the job is “too important and too responsible to treat it as anything less than it is: A professional position.”
Last year’s total town clerk budget was $109,998; the requested amount for FY18 is $116,068, a difference of $6,070. Ms. Labonte’s hours will go from 20 per week to 35 per week.
Mr. Noble told the board that this year’s budget (for FY18) puts $471,606 in the stabilization fund and relies less on free cash for ongoing expenses than in the past. He said the budget provides more clarity by showing clearly where the money is coming from for the expenses.
In the past, the town underestimated receipts by a large percentage and then had to rely on free cash to balance the budget, usually in a special town meeting held in the fall. Free cash is certified by the state and is a one-time revenue source. The have consistently been coming in higher, so Mr. Noble said it was better to estimate more realistically. The town will, instead, put more money in the Finance Committee reserve account, which is used for unexpected expenses throughout the year.
This budget, said Mr. Noble, just “matches the revenue stream to expenditures.”
“I think this is the most accurate budget I’ve ever seen,” said Mr. Cioper.
Mr. Gaspar said it was a “huge relief” to see the Finance Committee meetings as they discussed the FY18 budget. He said the department heads presented their “real budgets.”
“Looking back now, knowing what I know, a lot of the bickering was probably not called for,” said Mr. Gaspar.
The budget documents will be on the town’s website with sources of revenue and expenditures by department listed.
The estimated $28,224,714 in revenue comes from: $16,641,842 in property taxes; $7,672,677 in state aid; $2,935,932 from local receipts (excise taxes, building permit fees, etc.); $310,400 from ambulance receipts; $663,863 from free cash. The recommended school budget is $13,991,342, or just a tad over 46% of the $30,136,974 total budget, which includes other expenditures. •••
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