By Beth David, Editor
Acushnet Town Meeting will face 21 articles at the Annual TM this Saturday, 6/20/20. The meeting will be held at Ford Middle School, with social distancing measures in place.
Seats will be six feet apart, and attendees will be asked to wear masks, except when they are in their seats six feet apart.
Town Administrator Julie Hebert said in a phone interview that the room can fit 85 people with the social distancing protocols, and they have set aside an overflow room. The Selectboard was also set to meet on Wednesday (past our press time) to decide if they would lower the quorum from 75. A temporary order by the state allows towns to change the quorum to as low as 10% of their regular number, which means Acushnet could, theoretically, go as low as eight people.
If a town does lower the quorum, the temporary measure requires that no controversial articles are on the warrant.
Ms. Hebert said they have pulled everything possible to comply with the order.
In its letter to residents, the Finance Committee said that the COVID-19 pandemic “uprooted our revenue estimates fro FY2021,” and they had to start over again after beginning in January to prepare the budget.
“Town and school departments were asked to make devastating cuts to their budgets, prioritizing services and eliminating potential opportunities for needed growth,” wrote the FinCom. “With the uncertainty of our economic future, we believe that the requests for funding received from our departments are reasonable and justifiable.”
The committee also recommends funding several capital requests, but those reflect cuts in what was requested by departments. The budget also recommends a 2% increase to the school budget.
“The aggressive management of operating costs over the years has resulted in an operating budget in which there is virtually nothing left to cut unless we decrease services currently provided to our residents,” wrote the FinCom. “The burden of supplying these services within the tax rate structure will continue to be an uphill struggle.”
The budget also allows for $587,999 in free cash into FY21, to be used as a “revenue shortfall parachute.”
If not needed to fund the shortfall, the funds will be used for capital purchases or operating budget services that were cut.
The COVID-19 crisis has severely hit the state budget, which in turn means municipalities are not sure what cuts they can expect in state aid this year.
The budget projects revenue of $30,762,685, which includes a projection of $7,502,023 from the state, which is a decrease from last year’s state aid of $7,811,920.
Projections from local receipts, such as excise taxes and permits, are $3,447,442, a slight increase from last year’s $3,423,537.
Ms. Hebert said the town generally has a healthy cushion for receipts, so they are confident in their projections. Overall, she said, the cut about five percent across the board in anticipation of state aid cuts and other revenue shortfalls.
The budget also uses $335,727 in free cash to balance the general fund budget.
Across the board, the FinCom recommendations are lower than department requests, except for one or two small increases.
The School Department asked for $15,615,215, and the FinCom is recommending $15,073,651. Last year’s appropriation was $14,782,531.
Recommended capital improvements include $85,000 from free cash to upgrade the school district’s WiFi; $15,000 from the capital expense fund for roof preventive maintenance for the school department; $15,000 from capital expense fund for Fire/EMS vehicle refurbishments; $25,000 from free cash for three new vehicle leases. Total for capital expenditures is $160,000.
Town Meeting will also be asked to use $80,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the “Little Toy Project” at 800 Middle Road, which is the playground at the elementary school. Improvements had been made to the area a couple of years ago, but no equipment was added. The $80,000 will be added to about $20,000 collected by fund-raising to equip the playground.
TM will also be asked to use $2,000 in CPA Historic Preservation funds to paint the interior walls and ceiling, and landscaping at the Historic Fire Stationon 1130 Main Street.
Zoning bylaw changes include article 12 to amend the Stormwater Management Bylaw. Article 13 to amend the floodplain overlay district will be pulled because FEMA has changed the deadline for it.
Town meeting will be held at Ford Middle School on Saturday, 6/20/20, at 10 a.m. It is an open town meeting. Any registered voter in Acushnet may participate.
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal.
Click here to download the entire 6/18/20 issue: 06-18-20 AcushnetBLM