Lincoln taxpayers vote to approve 2020 budget

Lincoln taxpayers vote to approve 2020 budget

Plenty of institutional knowledge now heads out the door

LINCOLN – The 144 taxpayers who attended Monday’s 124th annual Financial Town Meeting voted to pass an $85.2 million budget for the town and schools, representing less than one percent of the town's registered voters.

The fiscal 2020 budget will be supported by a 1.5 percent increase in the tax levy, or total collected in taxes.

Most questions raised by taxpayers at the meeting revolved around the school budget, particularly regarding a last-minute change made to a capital resolution to replace the roof at Central Lincoln Elementary School. A $130,000 appropriation to the town’s schools for capital projects rose to $367,000 because the roof project at Central had been inadequately funded.

Town Councilor Arthur Russo, noting that he was not against the resolution, asked whether the board could make a change amounting to more than $80,000 or 10 percent of the dollar amount written in the budget under the town’s charter.

Turner said the language allows for last-minute changes to be made to the resolution if additional information is gathered.

Though the Budget Board appropriated $665,000 for the Central roof last year, bids for the work came in $210,000 over budget. Turner said the project was estimated to cost $875,000 including soft costs.

Town Administrator Joe Almond asked whether officials should re-appropriate the entire amount needed for the project because the original was set to expire in June. Budget Board member Michael Babbitt said they wanted to restrict the money before this happens again.

Resident Frances Guevremont objected to the following resolution directing an additional $937,676 to the Lincoln High School construction/renovation project for new seating, lighting and sound equipment for the auditorium, arguing that past funding has supported things such as a turf field, which doesn’t go directly to educational programming.

Speaking in favor of the resolution was resident Bonnie Taylor, who said the money should be spent on the upgrades now while construction is already underway.

“We should do the job well the first time,” she said, adding that programs such as the arts and physical education are important in providing a “well-rounded, holistic education to the children of our town.”

Some debate then ensued over whether taxpayers should be voting on the School Department’s bottom line without knowing how much funding Lincoln schools will be receiving from the state next year.

Under state law, the town’s school appropriation can only be voted on as a single line – level-funded at $41.8 million this year. The total education budget was $56.9 million, passing with two audible “nays.”

Voters unanimously approved roughly $1.2 million in capital resolutions that will not impact the tax levy. All of the resolutions on the agenda passed.

The meeting was Bob Turner’s last as moderator, a role he has served off and on for decades. He will be replaced by formed moderator and Budget Board member Bob Erickson.

It was also the final meeting for members Maria Marcello, Linda Butera Noble and Edward Sullivan, whose seats are still open. Those interested in serving should contact their town councilor.

Turner commented that there was “an awful lot of institutional knowledge leaving,” and urged residents to consider applying to be on the board.

“I’d hate to see this form of government move on, so we’re looking for new blood,” he said. “What makes this town different is this form of government. Absent that, you’ll have a city council government no different from any other city or town in the state.”