Three weeks late, Scituate adopts budget

Three weeks late, Scituate adopts budget

Budget committee member Michael Marcello makes a statement early in the meeting. He made a motion to vote on the proposed budget line-by-line. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

SCITUATE – Residents of Scituate came together Tuesday evening to adopt a 2017/2018 operating budget that includes an additional $300,000 for the School Department and $6,800 to the Police Department for new tasers and shotguns.

These amendments to the budget pushed the proposed tax levy increase of 2.85 percent to the state cap of 4 percent, the highest tax increase Scituate has had in recent years.

Town Treasurer Ted Przybyla said this will add another $40 to $50 to the average tax bill.

Residents also accepted two of the most controversial aspects of the budget – the implementation of a 24/7 rescue service for $217,760 and a High School Career and Technical Education program for $261,523.

Before any votes, Tuesday night kicked off with Moderator Dave D' Agostino announcing "a continuation of the 286th Financial Town Meeting."

April 25 was, of course, the second FTM for Scituate this month since the April 4 meeting ended with 291 residents voting to send the budget back for a three week period of revision.

Although the Budget Committee held two open meetings on April 11 and 18, the budget was presented with no changes to the 497 residents who filed into the gymnasium of Scituate Middle and High School two days ago.

However, this time around the audience was far more willing to craft the budget themselves.

Supporters of the School Department in particular came out in full force to argue for a bigger allotment, debating the issue for over an hour before Moderator Dave D' Agostino called for a vote.

Resident Tim McCormick was first to propose adding $300,000 to the school's operating budget.

"The schools are in a financial crisis right now," McCormick said.

The School Department originally asked for more than $1.1 million from the budget committee, but that request was cut by $333,617. In order to stay within the $23.8 million budget, the School Committee voted to pull $333,617 from the school contingency fund line item of about $350,000. The contingency fund is meant to be used as a reactionary fund for unforeseen expenses, like an additional classroom or a para professional.

The School Committee is also budgeting $952,000 from its fund balance. Supt. Lawrence Filippelli has previously described both of these decisions as risks.

The schools are also receiving $143,000 less in state aid because of a shrinking population, partially a result of competitive Career and Technical Education programs in the area, like those offered by Ponaganset High School.

School Committee member Carolyn Dias gave an impassioned plea to the audience to vote in favor of a $300,000 increase. She said the money would be used to replenish the contingency fund line item and ideally lessen a reliance on fund balance.

"You need to support the kids," Dias said.

Some members of the Budget Committee and Town Council resisted the increase, since it would not only increase the school's maintenance of effort but also require a tax levy increase.

Town Council President John Mahoney described it as "irresponsible" and Budget Committee member Michael Marcello reminded residents "we have to balance all the competing interests."

Even so, the increase passed as a win for the schools.

The Police Department also received an increase after a resident proposed that the tax levy be pushed to the full 4 percent and any additional funds over the $300,000 for the School Department be used for more tasers and shotguns.

Przybyla confirmed that there would be $6,800 leftover for the Police Department.

Chief Donald Delaere said the department has only three tasers and its shotguns are decades out of date.

Resident Tracy Noonan described the situation as "an officer safety issue as well as a public safety issue" and the motion passed.

The rest of the budget was accepted in its original form, but just as the evening seemed to be nearing an end the moderator announced a last-minute motion proposed by Mahoney.

The council president wanted to move the $8,000 from line item "Open Space" and place it in a savings account for a new police station.

Members of the Scituate Land Trust and Conservation Commission Thomas Angell and Robert Bower were quick to protect the funds, which are used to protect and preserve open space in town.

Angell said the money was pertinent to maintaining the cherished rural atmosphere of Scituate.

"I would appreciate it if you keep that money where it belongs," Angell said.

After a clarification from the solicitor that this was not an appropriate motion for the FTM, Mahoney withdrew his motion.

Town council members, from left, Nicholas Izzo, Scott Amaral and Council President John Mahoney strike similar poses during the FTM.
Scituate resident Richard Finnegan making a point about the Financial Town Meeting being “the people’s meeting.”
Council President John Mahoney looks over a copy of the proposed budget.
Standing beneath athletic banners and before members of the school committee, Tim McCormack makes the case for allocating more funding to the School Department.
To accomodate an expected larger crowd, the Financial Town Meeting was moved to the high school gymnasium.

Comments

Taxpayer's let the independent men know what was important to them, by voting to increase funding to the school department, even though this meant increasing taxes by approximately fifty dollars per year, per household. Members of all three parties stood in solidarity to increase funding given to the school dept.

Mahoney's claim that this is "irresponsible" defies logic.
Since when is it irresponsible
To take care of the children of the community. The only person acting irresponsibly
Is Mahoney.

The independent men should never underestimate the will of the people.

Returning to vote on the exact same budget that was presented on April 4th, did not
deter the majority of taxpayers
As the Independents thought
It would.

Taxpayer from all three parties were united together for a common cause of providing for the town's youngest residents.

It was a appalling to watch Mahoney make a motion to usurp funds used to preserve open space. This fund should never be used for anything other than preserving open space.

The icing on the cake came when the town solicitor deemed this not an appropriate motion, it's quite apparent the only one acting
Irresponsibly is Mahoney !

Thank you residents of Scituate for safe guarding the future of our community.

Even though no one can account for $1300 per day for the overnight rescue, the sheeple went for it anyway. Also, why does everyone think that throwing money all over is going to fix the school?? Perhaps different staffing is needed.

Scituate can thank the republicans for a huge tax hike highest in years