Town Administrator Michael Gagne gave the Mattapoisett Finance Committee members a sneak peek at the Spring Town Meeting warrant on April 19; meanwhile, selectmen are still preparing to cut another nearly $200,000 from the proposed $25 million plus FY18 budget.
The selectmen had reviewed every line item, and “large and small items” were trimmed in an effort to bring spending in line with revenue projects, Gagne said.
“Two and a half increase and new growth equal $771,977,” said Gagne, turning to new revenue sources including the tax levy. He also said the projected state aid increase would be about $64,000, while local receipts were projected to be increased by $85,000 over FY17.
Gagne again pointed out that medical insurance was a huge contributing factor to the total budget, up nearly 11 percent.
The dollars that fell from the budget bottom line included decreases in requests for office supplies, seminars and training, legal fees, and a proposed increase of four hours for the planning board administrator. Also cut were fire department budget requests for increases to holiday pay, sick leave buy backs, and uniforms. The highway department’s request for an increase in part-time hours was also culled.
Yet, while the FY18 budget was getting a haircut, one department will see an increase in staffing hours.
Council on Aging Director Jackie Coucci asked the selectmen to consider increasing her assistant Cindy Macallister’s hours from 19 hours per week to 24. The selectmen supported her request, a request she characterized as “critical” in maintaining continuity of services provided to the community. Macallister’s husband, Selectman Tyler Macallister, did not participate in those discussions.
But FinCom Chairman Pat Donoghue objected, saying, “People need to understand the implication this has on benefits!” Donoghue said that, upon retirement, “She’ll be eligible for health insurance for herself and her spouse.”
“This is liable to cost far more in benefits than salary,” she argued. Donoghue thought it made better fiscal sense to hire another part-time staffer than increase a part-time person to a full-time position.
Gagne reminded the committee members that the selectmen had only agreed to the staffing increase because Macallister would not be enrolled in the municipal health insurance program.
As Gagne and the FinCom members reviewed the warrant articles, he pointed out that OPEB funding would be sought in the amount of $429,821. A sum of $25,000 would be earmarked for Mattapoisett’s share of the ORR obligations. Gagne also pointed out that another article titled Regional School System Study, Analysis and Strategic Planning Study would also be on the warrant.
This article will ask the voters to commit a sum of $5,000 in partnership with Marion and Rochester to hire a consultant to review ORR’s “historical expenditures, revenues, and practices … for the purpose of providing policymakers appropriate data for sound fiscal, strategic and proper planning…” Gagne said that in conversations with Superintendent Doug White, he found him to be in agreement that, “…this is a good way to develop a proper strategic plan to fund programs…”
The Mattapoisett Fire Department’s plan to construct a new fire station will make another step in that direction if voters agree to an article that appropriates funds to perform design analysis including cost estimates.
“The game plan is to start with concepts, then to costing, so next year the town will know and decide if they want to go to the full design” Gagne explained. He said it was feasible that construction could begin by 2020 and that the town would most likely finance the structure with a 20-year bond. The article appropriation sum had not yet been determined.
There will be a number of water and sewer enterprise fund articles along with capital planning items totaling $474,100. That list features $40,000 for enhanced security at Center School, roof repairs to Old Hammondtown School, two new police cruisers, and a truck for the highway department.
The Crystal Spring Road solar array project is on the warrant as the town seeks voters’ approval for a PILOT program – payment in lieu of taxes – that will help generate revenue over a 20-year period.
Gagne said that another solar project is planned for Tinkham Hill Road across the road from the first solar project constructed in Mattapoisett. This second Tinkham Hill project will be an extension of the current permitting, stated Drew Pierson, director of project development for Blue Water Solar in a follow-up interview.
Pierson said, “We’ll have to submit a plan modification, but it will be an extension of the existing project out there.”
A fourth solar project planned on Crystal Spring Road adjacent to the present project is slated to be 6.5 megawatts, Gagne reported. Pierson said that project is pending Planning Board and Conservation Commission vetting.
Mattapoisett’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for May 8 at 6:30 pm in the ORRHS auditorium.
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell