Clean Sweep on FY22 Warrant

            The atmosphere on Monday night at Rochester Memorial School was festive, in stark contrast to 2020, as Finance Committee Chairman Kris Stoltenberg addressed attendees of the May 24 Annual Town Meeting and remarked on a “growing sense of normalcy and optimism.”

            In prefacing the 17 articles on the warrant that would all carry with only a few drawing isolated voices of dissent, Stoltenberg told attendees that all the Fiscal Year 2022 budgets are within the scope of a level-funded budget philosophy with any increases explained, scrutinized, and ultimately recommended.

            A pie chart accompanied the literature on the table inside the meeting hall, indicating a consistent approach, and Stoltenberg explained that to pay for Article 4, the $22,887,488 FY22 operating budget (up from $22,522,236 for FY21), 59 percent would come from $13,394,343 in tax levies, 22 percent or $4,955,000 in local receipts (includes SEMASS PILOT payments and approximately $800,000 in excise tax), and from various other sources.

            The Rochester Memorial School budget, he said, increases by 2.5 percent, ORR by 2 percent, and Bristol Aggie by 7 percent, the latter because its transportation costs are no longer part of the RMS budget. The Plymouth County Retirement Fund is up 11 percent.

            Stoltenberg further noted that this is Rochester’s second year benefitting from the services of a volunteer Capital Planning Committee, and praised its efforts in “forward-thinking, balanced recommendations with available funds.”

            In 2019, Rochester passed the Green Community Act with 240 other towns in the state and in FY21 received $136,000 in associated grant funding for energy conservation measures.

            Rochester continues its participation in the federal CARES Act, $550,000 of which has assisted schools and $250,000 to the town in non-budgeted pandemic-related reimbursements as administered by Plymouth County.

            “The town is in a strong position and can now work past the pandemic and work in a fiscally responsible way,” said Stoltenberg, thanking the Finance Committee and Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar for their work on the FY22 budget.

            Two articles in particular resulted in comments from the floor.

            Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson told attendees that on May 11 the board recommended unanimously to adopt Article 10.

            Town Counsel Blair Bailey explained from the stage that Article 10, the Flood Plain District Amendment, is a federally funded insurance program and that, in order to be eligible to collect, the town must have a zoning bylaw that complies with federal and state regulations. Only a few areas of town fall into a flood plain district, he said, and further stated that the amendment does not represent any substantive changes but is meant to clarify the bylaw and meet federal and state requirements.

            David Arancio, Finance Committee member who also chairs the Capital Planning Committee, explained that Article 11 recommending $201,190 in funding from the Capital Improvement Fund means there is no borrowing, and he thanked associated participants and stakeholders for their work in arriving at the expenditure that will cover replacement of two Highway Department dump trucks, an aging alarm system and outdated technology at Rochester Memorial School, a new floor for the Highway Barn, irrigation for a playing field, and the purchase of air handlers, compressors, and related electrical.

            Meeting attendance easily exceeded the 30 required to establish a quorum, a minimum that will no longer be in effect in two weeks when the state of emergency expires.

            Before the first article was read by Moderator Kirby Gilmore, Selectman Woody Hartley recognized new faces in town administration, new Council on Aging Director Eric Poulin, new Veterans Services Director Christopher Gerrior, and from the public education sector Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical Superintendent Director Aaron Polansky and the Old Rochester Regional Central Office team represented by Superintendent Mike Nelson, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Jannell Pearson-Campbell, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber, and Director of Student Services Craig Davidson.

            Hartley also made a special recognition of Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon, who drew a round of applause. Farinon is leaving the town’s employ this summer after a 35-year career.

            The final article approved the Town Election to be held on Wednesday, March 26, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Senior Center at 67 Dexter Lane. One amendment on Article 17 was required to correct the Planning Board race from one open seat to two.

Rochester Town Meeting

By Mick Colageo

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