Town Manager, Finance Committee Disagree on Budget
Town meeting 7 p.m. May 14 in Norton Middle School auditorium.
Town Manager Michael Yunits is offering a few changes to the upcoming Norton town budget, proposing to reduce the Town Clerk’s raise and add to the staff of the communications department while reducing the town’s donation to the school department.
The total town budget stands at $48,309,794 using the finance committee’s most recent recommendations, Yunits told selectmen Thursday. The budget includes an unanticipated $162,000 in revenue for veteran’s reimbursements.
He said he wants to reduce the Town Clerk’s proposed 29 percent raise, as recommended by the finance committee, to one percent, a reduction of $13,067. Yunits and selectmen had discussed the fact that because the Town Clerk still remains an elected position, neither he nor the board has any control over how many hours a week the clerk is actually in the office, because they would normally write the job description and set up the parameters of the position.
Yunits has also taken issue with the finance committee’s recommendation for the overtime expenses of the communications department, saying the department needs the $24,542 extra he had proposed to ensure the dispatchers always have two people on duty. This requires three positions, not the two the proposed budget allows for.
“You can’t just have one dispatcher in an emergency,” Yunits said.
The third proposal by Yunits is to reduce the school budget by $81,206, still $418,605 above the FY 2012 approved budget, exceeding the standard 70/30, school/town split in free cash by $160,300.
The Town Manager’s budget leaves $105,126 in free cash that could be added to the Capital Improvement account or to the stabilization account, while the fincom’s budget sets that amount at $35,284. Yunits said it is important for the town’s rating with Standard and Poor, the company that sets the credit worthiness of the town every year. Credit ratings for towns are based on a number of standards, and the maintenance of reserves is an important part of the qualifications.
“The 70/30 split does not always work,” said Robert Kimball, noting it has been a long time since he had seen the finance committee and the town manager take different positions on the budget before Town Meeting.
He noted the budget as proposed cuts out a badly needed part time animal control officer, and said the extra $162,000 from the veterans’ reimbursements could have been used to reinstate needed programs in the police and fire departments.
“I fought for years to put on a part time dog officer,” commented Robert Salvo, saying the present officer works 24 hours a day, and needs time off. “I hope we can add it in by the October Town Meeting,” he said.
The board reviewed warrants for the regular and special town meetings scheduled for May 14. Included in capital improvements expenses are a backup system for the town’s computers off-site, to prevent a crash from bringing the town to a standstill, as well as two new police cruisers and a motorcycle for the police department.
The fire department is requesting new turnout protective gear, and a new SUV for the Chief. The highway department needs the last of three divided payments for a “brush hog,” a front-end loader, and a new pickup truck.
The Everett Leonard Park needs $25,380 in improvements to the roof and interior of the building. Total capital expenses stand at $833,223.
The special town meeting warrant includes approving a settlement that will be paid to reimburse the town for the cost of burst pipes at the Yelle school, acceptance of the land donation from John Pino for a boat ramp onto the Reservoir, and provisions for borrowing for the repair of the Solmonese school roof.
Town meeting convenes on May 14 at 7 p.m. in the Norton Middle School auditorium.