Selectmen took care of business swiftly on January 27 with no appointments listed on the agenda, nor any new business presented.
Town Administrator Richard LaCamara updated the board on school budget progress after another Rochester School Committee budget subcommittee meeting was held the night before. It seems there is progress is bringing down the initial total amount requested for level-services, from $254,000 to $120,000. LaCamara reported that the school budget still requires an increase of $74,000, and an additional $46,000 for Bristol County Agricultural High School.
LaCamara referred to the Old Rochester Regional High School proposed budget as “terribly difficult,” with a requested increase of $820,000, a $327,000 increase in Rochester’s assessment for the ORR budget.
“Which is a problem for us,” said LaCamara, “because we can’t afford that kind of an increase.” He added that he would be attending the budget subcommittee meeting at ORR the next day on Tuesday, saying, “We’ll review the budget tomorrow and see where we are at … but they’re gonna have to reduce our assessment by at least $220,000…to balance our budget.” He continued, “Old Colony proposed a $300,000 increase, which they know is not gonna happen.”
Nunes had a number of questions about the school budget, to which LaCamara did not have all the answers. Selectman Naida Parker suggested Nunes attend the subcommittee meeting the next day to address his concerns.
It was Nunes’s position that the three towns already contribute above and beyond what the State requires them to spend on the regional school.
Some good news for the budget, Parker disclosed the recent revelation that the State would reimburse 90% of the Town’s contribution toward Bristol Aggie transportation costs. Parker explained that the Bristol Aggie transportation line would be taken out of the Rochester Memorial transportation budget, and will stand alone as its own budget item within the over-all school budget.
Before the discovery of the State reimbursement, the Town had been trying to come up with other ways to transport Rochester students to Bristol Aggie, even considering using a Council on Aging van and hiring a driver. In light of the news of reimbursement, the move is no longer necessary.
Additional information pertaining to the budget included state aid projections that came in last week, which grants Rochester only $12,000 more this year in Chapter 70 reimbursement, which is unfortunate, according to LaCamara.
In other news, the board approved deficit spending for the Town’s snow and ice removal budget, which would probably – no, make that, definitely be over-expended by the end of next week, stated LaCamara.
What does that mean, and from where will the money come to pay for continued snow removal, asked Selectman Richard Nunes.
Spending over the $68,000 budget line for snow and ice is not a rare occurrence, and LaCamara explained that either the Town would have to make a transfer from some other section of the budget or use free cash to cover the budget, “depending on the severity of the situation,” said LaCamara.
Also at the meeting, with budget negotiations for newly hired Town Planner Mary Crain completed, LaCamara presented the board with the finished contract, which he stated was no different than the one that was presented earlier. The contract, dated February 1 through June 30 is for an hourly rate of $26, with a maximum of 1,000 hours annually. Contracts generally run from July 1 through June 30, the reason for the expiration of Crain’s contract the end of June this year. The quorum of two, in Selectman Brad Morse’s absence, approved the contract unanimously.
Also during the meeting, the board discussed putting together a cable committee to review the Town’s contract with Comcast and, in two years, with Verizon. Parker mentioned adding an addendum to the contract with Verizon, hoping to avoid having major broadcasting channels dropped from the channel line up.
The next Board of Selectmen meeting is scheduled for February 10, at 6:30 pm at Town Hall.
By Jean Perry