Town voters approved the $45,371,093 fiscal year 2013 budget Monday night, despite some debate over the school and Town Clerk’s portion.
Voters went with the Finance Committee’s recommendation of $23,007,874 for the Norton Public School’s operating budget rather than the $22,926,668 supported by Town Manager Michael Yunits. The $81,206 difference came from unanticipated revenue for veteran’s reimbursements.
“Our feeling is that over the years the school department has had to take an incredible hit and this year if we could give, we can afford, they should get the increase we are recommending,” said Paul Helmreich of the Finance Committee. “The school needs this money. It doesn’t come close to funding what they actually need. They have got almost no increases in funding in the last five years and we should do this.”
Last year’s budget was $22,511,668. Superintendent Dr. Patricia Ansay noted at the School Committee meeting earlier that night that state mandated special education costs continue to rise each year while it costs $500,000 just to open the doors.
“Everyone wants to support the school system, obviously. It’s very important that we do,” Yunits said. "As I reviewed the budgets I was trying to do the best I could for the schools.”
The Town Manager’s budget supported the stabilization account to keep a good 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.
Voters also agreed with the Finance Committee to view the Town Clerk’s position as a full time job that requires 40 hours of work each week with a salary of $59,666. The current position is 30 hours. Because the hours of an elected official cannot be mandated, it will work on an “honor system,” according to Helmreich.
Three more full-time positions will be added to the Communication Center so that two people will be on shift during high use hours instead of one.
“This is an increase which is long overdue and is really needed in public safety. It is also one in which the state basically has told us how we have to run the department,” Helmreich said.
Yunits also noted that the Center also takes in calls from Bristol County dispatch. If multiple calls come in, the dispatcher can’t put someone on hold to pick up another line.
From the capital improvements fund, $649,340 will be used to replace the roof, ventilation exhaust fans and air conditioner center core at . Work on the roof will not be done until the summer of 2013. A bid will go out and a project manager will be assigned by the MSBA. Once the design process is finished and state requirements are met, MSBA grants will be sought.
At , $110,000 will be used to replace network switches, a computer networking device that connects network devices to the internet. The current switches are from 2003 and service is often interrupted, according to Superintendent Dr. Patricia Ansay.
“The Finance Committee has been informed by the Board of Selectmen and also the Capital Improvements Committee that they will be looking at a major appropriation for capital improvements maybe to come forth at Fall Town Meeting but certainly to deal with a lot of these things probably through a bond issue.”
The town also approved $375,000 for capital outlay for the Water Department.
“That takes in about three accounts,” said Superintendent of Water Department Duane Knapp. “Forty thousand is for the second leg of what we call piloting. We will be bringing in equipment and putting it in various wells this summer and what this equipment will do is tell Norton how much iron manganese is in the water and what kind of filter system will work best to remove iron manganese and getting out the dirty water, we call it. That will be completed in the fall. The next phase After they know what kind of filter pressure is needed, the design phase of a plant will be completed.”
During the Special Town Meeting, $98,430.89 was transferred to the Norton Public Schools’ budget to make repairs to the gymnasium floor at .
Approximately 52,400 square feet of land was donated to the Town of Norton by John F. Pino.
“I would just like to take a point here and point out that this is a gift from the Pino Family, a longstanding family in town, and I think it’s appropriate that we just take a moment and thank them for their generosity and presenting this gift to the town,” said Town Moderator Bill Gouveia, eliciting applause from the crowd.
The only articles not approved were 3, 5, 6 and 19, which were lost due to lack of motion by the moderator.
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