As the Mattapoisett Finance Committee met to approve end-of-year reserve fund transfers, capping off a year that found this town and the entire global community struggling to pay for and plan for pandemic-related expenses, the news was not all bad. Reserve fund monies can be counted on to cover these unbudgeted and or unanticipated expenses.
Better yet, Town Administrator Mike Lorenco said that a federal stimulus package would find Mattapoisett $600,000 on the positive cash flow side of the balance sheet by the end of July. He said the American Rescue Plan will bring in just over $500,000 in new funding that the federal government said must last through 2024.
Lorenco explained that the program is awarding stimulus monies based on the population of cities and towns, that the funds must be requested by municipalities, and that the Select Board and he do not plan to use the funds until a full understanding of the guidelines on spending the money is understood. “There is a 158-page document explaining how the funds may be used.… Federal guidelines are strict, and even a mistake amounting to pennies can disqualify us from future funding,” he said.
For now, as funding is received it will be set aside pending future decisions.
Also held back was $145,000 from FY21 in unallocated funds, FinCom Chair Pat Donoghue explained. She confirmed that those monies are allowed to be held back until a fall Town Meeting can be held by October, giving the town time to study end-of-the year spending against receipts.
The main topic of the June 16 meeting was reserve fund transfers requested by Town Administrator Mike Lorenco. These requests were fairly modest, given that on some balance sheets expenses could not be fully anticipated. Lorenco asked for a total of $130,000 to cover such expenses as the state mandated accrual study, $8,000 of which had not been budgeted, he said.
Legal fees, Lorenco said, came in high and therefore needed an additional estimated sum of $30,000 to cover fees until the end of FY21. Another transfer coming from reserve cash will be to cover overtime hours for the conservation agent in the amount of $20,000.
Coming before FinCom members to explain a $35,000 expense in on-call fire personnel was Fire Chief Andrew Murray, who explained that with so many people staying home during the pandemic lockdown period, many on-call firefighters responded to incidents. He wrote in a narrative presented to the committee, “The pandemic has created a unique dynamic for on-call fire departments across the country. On a normal year, the majority of on-call staff leave town during the day for their full-time jobs, they have parties, functions, activities.… The past year has been completely different.” He continued on saying that with so many on-call firefighters available to answer the call, the “three-hour call back minimum multiplied and compounded this issue.… Monthly payouts were much greater than historical records show.”
Another transfer requested was $18,000 for the paving of Reservation Road, part of the bike path agreement previously executed with the private golf club. And in the unanticipated category was the need for $7,500 for plastic shield installations in municipal buildings. While the town did receive federal CARES Act reimbursement funding, Lorenco stated, “Those funds were used up by December.”
All requested transfer sums were unanimously approved by the committee.
No future meetings were scheduled at adjournment.
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell