By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard reviewed the budget and a draft of town meeting articles at its meeting on Tuesday, 3/28. The numbers for the budget are mostly in, although not quite set in stone, and the town meeting articles will most likely change, said Town Administrator Brian Noble.
“Clarity” was the word of the night for Mr. Noble’s first budget. Notable changes include tweaking some percentages to allow for less free cash next year, but including the money in the operating budget up front, instead of waiting to balance the budget with free cash. The end result is about the same in expenditures, but the money has just shifted around a litte.
Total estimated revenues for Fiscal Year 2018 total $28,435,706, with $16,641,842 coming from taxation.
Of the $1,590,469 in free cash available, the FY18 budget uses $770,440 to balance the budget and $727,000 for town meeting articles. Mr. Noble’s budget recommends putting the remainig $93,029 in the stabilization fund.
Next year’s budget will use less free cash to balance, said Mr. Noble, as the board charged him with providing more clarity in the budget.
He told the board that he believed the town could put more in the stabilization fund this, as some amounts in the TM articles might be less by the time June rolls around.
Board member Kevin Gaspar said he was not sure about estimating some of the percentages in a different way, which would leave less in free cash, but would balance the budget without using free cash.
“We’re a very conservative school of individuals,” said Mr. Gaspar, adding that he wanted to make sure no one would be shortchanged next year.
Mr. Noble assured the board they he and the new town accountant, Julie Hebert, would be able to “allay some of your fears later on” in the process.
He said he wanted to start putting about $300,000 per year into the stabilization fund.
The school department requested $14,084,315, up 3.7% from last year’s appropriation.
The budget also funds a full time custodian for the Council on Aging, up from a half-tme position. Mr. Noble said the COA runs more programs now, so the room is constantlly needing setting up, taking down and cleaning.
As for town meeting, voters will face about 30 articles. Some were removed, so the final warrant has not been approved, and will be discussed in future meetings.
The Selectboard did vote to support an article, though, that would remove the quorum for town meeting.
Mr. Noble’s first special town meeting in November, before he came on board, had to be rescheduled because there were fewer than 75 registered voters in attendance.
In his first annual TM this June, voters will be asked to vote on an article that would change the bylaw from requiring 75 voters to: “Any number of registered town voters present shall constitute a quorum sufficient for any Town Meeting for the transaction of all business.”
It would, effecively, eliminate the quorum and allow even one person to decide the fate of the town’s annual budget.
In another matter on Tuesday, the board spoke with members of the Lazott family regarding two lots on Keene Road that abut town land. The town is interested in buying the lots to dig up to four wells, and the family would like the town to have it. The sale would have to be approved at town meeting, but it is too late for the annual scheduled for this June. The town will pursue the matter with the family.
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