Town Council Looks to Cut Number of Warrant Articles

During the Monday night, Nov. 26 meeting of the Town Council, members discussed some of the Warrant Articles that would be put to voters in March. 

During that discussion, Council Chair John Farrell was noticeably irritated with the amount of articles being presented. “I’m getting to the point where I’m finding it a bit ridiculous that we have 27 articles again,” he said. “I need something a little more simple to give to the voters. If we can’t do that, we need to start explaining it a lot earlier.” 

Councilor Tom Dolan added, “Is there any reason we have five articles for a special meeting of cost items?”

To which, Finance Director, Steve Campo responded, “That is for each one of the union agreements, if any one of the articles gets voted down, it allows us to continue negotiations.”

Campo was then instructed to look into whether the town could combine some of these articles. Ten of them were related to union contracts.

Farrell added, “I think SB2 needs to be fixed.”

Town Manager Kevin Smith then stated that the  town can fix it themselves, but it would require another warrant article.

He said the article would allow the town to define the default budget with an amendment to the town charter.

Smith also mentioned that the last day to submit a petition article would be  Tuesday, Jan. 7, and he suggested getting it in earlier than that so it could be reviewed by the town attorney. 

Smith then brought up an issue that Dolan had raised in during an earlier meeting in regard to trash pick up at the schools.

He said that he had reached out to other communities, and for the most part found that the pick up cost was done separately.

Dolan responded saying, “My thought on that was, it’s not going to change the homeowners taxes, but it would help to do the apples to apples comparison,” he added, “The way we’re doing it now, somewhat masks the unit cost per government and it would make more sense to sperate that out.”

Asked whether he thought the town should try to recover the revenue for picking up trash at the schools this year by Farrell. Dolan replied he thought it should be something done moving forward.

This lead to Farrell to instructing the Town Manager to let the Suerindendant know that moving forward, the town would not be paying the $124,000 for trash pickup at the schools, and they should add it into their budget.

Following that discussion, Smith presented a draft of the Tax Payer Relief Act of 2020.

Smith said there are three components to the plan, first, would be to apply one million dollars against the tax rate over five years, using the Undesignated Fund Balance, as long as the balance does not fall below the recommended levels during that time. 

Second, there would be no Capital Improvement requests by the town until fiscal year 2024.

Last, there would not be any full-time personnel requests in the next two years. Saying personnel represents about 90 percent of the budget.

The plan would save taxpayers about $15 per year on a house valued at $350,000.

Budget Committee Chair Tim Siekmann was concerned that if a catastrophe happened in either the town of school, there wouldn’t be enough available to cover the unexpected cost.

There is currently about $6 million in the town’s Undesignated Fund Balance, with $1.2 million available.

Tom Dolan then sighted examples of how the town has recently helped the school with funding issues saying that when there was a problem with the school underpaying the state by several hundred thousand dollar, the town covered that cost. He also mentioned the willingness of the town to help build a district office.

Later in the meeting, Siekmann voiced his concern about the relationship between town and school, saying he hoped it wouldn’t come to the schools not allowing the town to use the LHS gym for election.

Farrell responded by saying that there have been multiple email sent to the school, even recently, requesting a meeting of chairperson between the two governments. “We hear nothing,” Farrell said.

He added, “It would be a sad day if that’s the path they take.”

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