No budget changes ahead of April 25 FTM
No budget changes ahead of April 25 FTM
SCITUATE – Two weeks after a slim majority at the April 4 Financial Town Meeting sent the proposed town operating budget back for revision, two lengthy Budget Committee meetings have yielded no changes.
It will be déjà vu for voters when they walk in the Scituate High School doors on Tuesday, April 25, for take two.
Despite the Budget Committee’s attempts to understand why 291 voters opted to delay the FTM three weeks, meetings on April 11 and 18 failed to result in any alterations to the first rejected budget in Scituate’s history.
Meanwhile, Scituate’s budget expired on March 31 and officials have been running the town according to last year’s line item appropriations.
While the extra budget meetings provided an opportunity for both the committee and residents to present suggestions for why the budget was rejected and how it could be improved, the bulk of time was spent reviewing topics that the Budget Committee and School Committee had already discussed extensively at the six meetings leading up to April 4’s big night.
At the six meetings spread out across January, February, and March, the Budget Committee provided exhaustive presentations on the proposed 24/7 rescue service, the school Career and Technical Education program, and the use of the town’s surplus account or fund balance.
Attendance at these meetings, led by Town Council President John Mahoney, filled the small council chambers on Danielson Pike but came nowhere close to the 575 who attended the FTM.
Committee members are: Town Council President John Mahoney, Vice President Michael Payette, Council members Scott Amaral, Charles Collins Jr., and Nick Izzi, Treasurer Theodore Przybyla, Rep. Michael Marcello, Dean Huff, Sharon Johnson, Margaux Morriseau, and Town Clerk Margaret Long.
This past Tuesday, a frustrated Mahoney told one resident, “I didn’t see you at our other meetings.”
The evening was also punctuated by Mahoney’s tense questioning of Councilman Charles Collins Jr. and Treasurer Ted Przybyla as Mahoney pointed out that the two voted to send the budget back for revision.
Councilor Collins defended his decision, clarifying that his main issue is with the use of more than $200,000 of fund balance, without a replenishment plan.
“It’s causing a problem if we go in the reserves,” Collins said, “If we’re going to do it, we have to increase money going in the reserves.”
Mahoney then discussed a proposal to address the misuse of fund balance, which was written by Budget Committee member Michael Marcello and handed out to residents at the April 11 meeting.
The proposal outlines the establishment of a budget reserve account which the town would begin supplanting next year. The proposal has not been approved in an official vote, nor have plans to do so been discussed at these meetings.
Przybyla proposed a motion that the Budget Committee instead raise the tax levy from 2.85 percent to 3.5 percent and use some of that revenue to replenish the fund balance.
“Some people may get taxed right out of their homes,” Mahoney said.
The motion went without a second, but Dean Huff suggested residents should package it into their own motion on the floor of the FTM.
“It’s not a bad motion, it’s a hedge against next year,” Huff said.
This was soon followed by a motion proposed by Councilor Scott Amaral to put forward the budget exactly as it was presented on April 4. This motion passed.
The Financial Town Meeting has been described as “the people’s night,” but it seems many voters are unaware of the influence they can have.
Residents can propose their own motions to reject a line item, raise the tax levy, or increase school funding as long as the form is in writing, signed, and presented to Town Moderator David D’ Agostino.
Once the motion has been made and seconded, the moderator will then open the floor for discussion on that motion.
The decision of the majority of electors present qualified to vote will be accepted as the decision of the assembly.
Voting is usually accomplished by a voice vote – a vote in the affirmative is “aye,” and a vote in the negative is “no.” If the voice vote is close, there may be a standing vote.
In the event that a paper ballot is called for or requested, then it will require at least 20 percent or one-fifth of those qualified to vote to second that motion. If the motion is seconded by 20 percent of those qualified to vote and then passed, the Board of Canvassers will conduct the paper ballot.
To prepare for an increased demand of paper ballots, Mahoney said the town has obtained two ballot counting machines and more than 10,000 paper ballots.
It is up to those who attend the Financial Town Meeting on April 25 at 8 p.m. in the Scituate High School gymnasium to use them.