By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Select Board reorganized at its first meeting after the election, choosing Leon Correy as Chairperson, Charlie Murphy as Vice Chair, and Stasia Powers as Clerk.
At that meeting, on Tuesday, 4/11/23, the SB also met jointly with the Finance Committee to discuss the budget, getting the Town Meeting warrant finalized to go to print the next day. FinCom also met separately after the joint meeting to continue discussing the budget articles on the TM warrant.
The Select Board voted to submit two budgets to Town Meeting, one that would require a $450,000 override of Proposition 2 1/2, and one that cuts $450,000 in spending to balance the budget.
The two boards were working from updated materials that were not available online, so it was difficult to follow exactly what cuts they were talking about. But a budget of $58,086,901 million will fund the two firefighters that have been in question, not cut the school department, and better fund salary reserves and retirement accounts. It will require the $450,000 override.
In previous plans, cuts included $200K from the School Department, $150K from the Fire Department to lay off two firefighters, and $100K from salary reserves, which is used for promotions, raises, etc. In a change from that, the non-override budget still funds the new firefighters, using $150,000 from salary reserves. It still includes a $200,000 cut to the School Department budget. It was unclear by press time where the other $100K would come from.
The Select Board also voted to fund the Middle School roof at $2,397,3420, with a combination of free cash and money from the capital stabilization fund instead of borrowing.
The boards discussed a variety of cuts, including dropping the salary reserve item from $850,000 to $600,000. Select Board member Bob Espindola actually made that motion, but it failed. The board funded the line item at $850,000.
Town Administrator Angie Lopes Ellison said the town could cut some line items to try to avoid the override, but then there would be a shortfall later in the fiscal year. That means departments would run out of money, and the town would have to transfer money from the stabilization fund, which is the town’s savings account. That is using one-time money for ongoing expenses, and will only compound the problem.
The $450,000 will “right the ship,” at least for this year.
Town officials acknowledged that the town may need another override in the next few years. The $450K will add about $50 a year to the property taxes of the average home. Ms. Ellison said it was better to be incremental and be sure the override was necessary. Budget consultant Rich Bienvenue said some towns pass an override every year, in small amounts, instead of a large one.
School Superintendent Tara Kohler also addressed the boards, saying the $200,000 was a “significant hit.”
She said the cuts could include a number of positions, services such as the family center, and/or unified sports. The district was nationally recognized for that program.
“It’s kind of embarrassing to me,” she said.
Click here to download the 4/13/23 issue: 04-13-23 NFIAEggHunt
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