On April 12, Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne met with the Board of Selectmen as municipal department heads came forward to discuss and sometimes defend their budgets. Then on April 13, Gagne navigated the FY18 budget process towards the final draft in a meeting with the Finance Committee. It has taken months of planning, pages of worksheets, hours of meetings, and yes, trimming, as the final figures were prepared for the spring town meeting vote.
During the April 13 meeting with the Finance Committee, Gagne said, “We are mostly level funded at 2.6 percent over FY17.” The FY17 figure was $24,624,520. On that day, the projected FY18 budget stood at $25,472,580 while awaiting a final belt-tightening by the selectmen.
Library Director Susan Pizzolato told the selectmen that proposed federal cuts to libraries would directly affect her ability to try and meet state spending guidelines. She said that she is required to spend 19 percent of the library’s budget on materials that can be checked out by the public. That figure for FY18 is projected at $83,000.
During a meeting in March with selectmen, Pizzolato had said that a draft of the federal budget, “…cut 3.2 million dollars from library funding…” On April 12, she was still holding her breath hoping those expected cuts would not be as severe. In the meantime, fundraising efforts by the Friends of the Mattapoisett Library would help she said.
While the selectmen were sympathetic, Paul Silva said almost in a whisper, “It would be nice if we could get the whole budget down $5,000.”
Police Chief Mary Lyons presented a budget of $2,178,837, up $111,811 over FY17. She said that a resource officer stationed at the high school cost $89,101 but that figure was offset by contributions from Marion and Rochester, totaling $40,000.
Fire Chief Andrew Murray’s FY18 budget came in at $498,197 – $35,755 over FY17 with the biggest spike in vehicle maintenance at $2,650 and salary and wages at $28,601. Selectman Jordan Collyer who is also a member of the Fire Department said, “New trucks cost more to maintain.”
There was debate among the selectmen when they discussed a request from the Council on Aging to increase a staff member from 19 hours to 24 hours per week.
When COA Director Jackie Coucci met with the FinCom members in January she said, “I’m just one person.” Coucci defended her position, saying that should there be an unexpected absence, having a full-time person would enable responsibilities to be rendered without concern. Months later, her position remained steadfast.
During the FinCom meeting on the following night, Finance Committee Chairman Pat Donoghue expressed concern about retirement expenses if the position was expanded. Gagne said that the person in question would not be enrolled in the town’s healthcare program but would be on her spouse’s. Donoghue countered that, as a retiree, the employee and her spouse could be eligible for full benefits, burdening the town’s program. Gagne said that the selectmen had agreed that increasing the employee’s hours would be acceptable if health insurance wasn’t part of the agreement. The COA budget increases $6,323 over FY17 to $126,603 with the expanded staff hours.
Harbormaster Jill Simmons met with resistance during her presentation to the selectmen. She said they were not in favor of replacing the failing department truck, nor were they predisposed to purchasing a skiff for in-shore work or a motorized cart to assist staff movement around the three piers.
The following evening, Gagne explained to FinCom that a boat that had been donated to the town might be sold to purchase some of the equipment and or repairs needed by the waterfront enterprise fund. Gagne also said that the selectmen want more coverage on the wharves during the ten peak weeks of the boating season. A search for a qualified person to assist Simmons will begin shortly, he said. The enterprise fund stands at $219,283 up $2,281 from FY17.
The hotly debated local and ORR school budgets were reviewed with Gagne presenting the Finance Committee members with a detailed explanation of the health care costs. The report noted that the FY18 annual total health care expense is $2,226,000 with schools representing $1,206,440, or half of the total.
On the FY18 worksheet in the schools category, Donoghue asked about Old Colony Regional Technical Vocational High School that showed a reduction of $17,000. Gagne said that was due to enrollment projects trending down. Gagne said that sum would most likely appear on the warrant as an article placing it in the school stabilization fund.
The total school budget was expected to stay at $13,156,886 – $207,309 over FY17.
Regarding a jump in the highway department expenses of $8,000 questioned by the FinCom members, Gagne explained that the town was now using a “salt only” product to treat roadways versus a sand and salt mixture that was less costly. He said that the salt only treatment made the cleaning of catch basins and streets less labor intensive. The FY18 budget request is $700,056 up $27,612 from last year.
Trash collection and the impact of recycling was a big win for the town Gagne shared as FinCom reviewed the SEMASS expenses. Board of Health Director Dale Barrows had told Gagne that the community was utilizing the recycle bins, allowing the town to benefit from a decrease in rubbish tonnage. “It costs between $65 and $70 a ton to process trash,” Gagne said. The projected total cost for SEMASS remains the same from FY17 to FY18 at $175,000. Rubbish collection, however, will increase $9,473 in spite of the community’s aggressive recycling.
Other budget highlights include the water department’s FY18 request at $1,961,844 versus FY17 $1,819,042; sewer department FY18 $1,907,742 down from FY17 $2,268,780.
On April 18, the selectmen would meet once again to review FY18 projected revenue. Silva said the selectmen would be looking to trim the budget by another $200,000.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for May 9 at 6:30 pm. The Mattapoisett Finance Committee met again on April 18 to finalize the FY18 budget in advance of the spring town meeting.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen/Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell