Town Administrator Jay McGrail and Finance Director Judy Mooney appeared before the Finance Committee at its March 31 Zoom meeting to explain changes to two articles for the Spring Town Meeting warrant. The committee members voted to approve the changes to Articles 2 and 20, part of their meeting including votes to approve warrant articles for the May 10 Town Meeting.
Under Article 2 on the main budget, Mooney displayed two adjusted figures, $1,516,446 representing money ORR was paying the town, and $25,301,061, the total level-services budget figure.
“The overall net effect did not change,” Mooney told FinCom, explaining that the old numbers were misleading because they were based on a methodology derived from an old contract with the bus transportation company. “We decreased the operating budget, but we also decreased the net receipts.”
Where it shows up, said Mooney, is in the Sippican School subtotal adjusted to show $6,330,071 for FY22 as opposed to $6,353,539 in FY21. The negative 0.37 percent, she said, in reality, is closer to negative 0.24 percent. The FY21 figure for Sippican includes the money under the former methodology; the FY22 figure does not.
McGrail noted that Mattapoisett and Rochester have made the same systematic change in their budget processes. “ORR will pay their transportation directly to their bus company rather than go through the towns,” he said.
Marion’s school budget increase is down to a 2.13-percent budget increase. “It’s basically an accounting change. It makes things easier,” he said.
FinCom Chairman Peter Winters asked for clarification.
Mooney explained that the $170,000 for Sippican transportation was included in ORR’s assessment. “It was like a double-accounting; it was a pass-through,” she said. “It made no sense,” said McGrail.
In Article 20, Marion contracted for a survey of the bottom of the Wastewater Treatment Plant lagoon meant for greater accuracy in determining the amount of sludge remaining. The exercise yielded 70 more tons, bringing the total to 370 tons remaining and needing removal.
Including what was removed, the original estimate is off by over 1,000 tons, since when the cleanup is complete, approximately 1,450 tons of sludge will have been removed from the lagoon.
“This is actually the first time we’ve ever gotten in the bottom of the lagoon,” said McGrail.
Marion chose a 15-percent contingency, bringing the number for the appropriation up to $2,740,000.
“We’re spending $10 million to remove the sludge … for $10 million, we probably could have upgraded every septic in the town, and it probably would have been better for the bay,” said Selectman John Waterman.
Chairman Peter Winters clarified that the approval is necessary to comply with the consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Buzzards Bay Coalition. McGrail told FinCom it was difficult to secure an extension to the end of the year to complete the cleanup.
Other warrant articles discussed included Community Preservation Commission funds to expand the waterproofing of the entire basement of the Town House without adding to the original expense. McGrail credited Shaun Cormier for finding the financing mechanism.
The next meeting of the Marion Finance Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28, at 7:00 pm.
Marion Finance Committee
By Mick Colageo