Select Board - Jan 23rd, 2019

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These notes cover the agenda items I was interested in, rather than the entire meeting.

Citizens Open Forum. The first speaker was a fellow named Ben, who spoke about a warrant article he's submitting for town meeting. The article would give all legal residents the right to vote in town elections, regardless of whether they're citizens or not. While gathering candidate signatures, Ben discovered that some long-time residents weren't able to sign his petition to run for town meeting. Ben feels they're knowledgeable about the community, pay taxes, and therefore deserve the right to vote.

Dan Dunn provides a summary of how warrant articles come before town meeting. The select board can't address the substance of the article tonight, but it will receive a hearing at a later date.

Next, a group of residents speak to another proposed warrant article: to establish a permit system that allows low-income and disabled individuals to park overnight on the streets. This would be a needs-based permit system, and not a rollback of the overnight parking ban. The first speaker has a disability, and talks about the parking challenges she faces as a renter. Lynette Culverhouse notes that people with driveways get to park for free, while people without driveways have to pay to park. The ones without driveways are generally renters, who have a lower income than homeowners.

I speak in support of the article. The town generally does a good job at trying to help residents (tax relief for seniors, veterans, etc). A parking program for low-income and disabled individuals seems like a good step in that regard.

Next is a woman named Lynette, from the Diversity Task Force. The Diversity Task force unanimously supports a parking program to help people with financial hardship or medical needs.

The Board notes that they cannot take any action on the proposed article tonight. Mr. Dunn encourages the petitioners to work on specific language, including the income limits where the program would apply.

Traffic Rules. Speaking of parking, the Board received a petition for an on-street parking space at 15 Lafayette St. 15 Lafayette St. does not have a driveway; the select board had previously permitted an on-street parking space for the property, and the homeowners are seeking another.

The town's traffic enforcement officer recommended against the permit. Diane Mahon stated that the board has a set of criteria for granting these permits, namely, that they can't permit more on-street parking than the property has frontage. The board has already permitted a space for this address, and the property lacks sufficient frontage for another.

The applicants weren't happy with this decision, and spoke about non-uniform and selective parking enforcement.

The board votes to deny the petition, 1--4.

Warrant Articles. The selectmen will vote on a set of articles for this year's warrant. These are just warrant articles; main motions will be debated later.

Mr. Dunn believes Article B (early voting) is largely covered by a citizen sponsored initiative. He'd like to withdraw it. Clarissa Rowe believes that any study of voting options should be completed well before the 2020 election season begins.

Article C deals with Waterline inspections. There are leaks in our water system. We know this because water we get from the MWRA is metered, and a portion of that never makes it onto resident water bills. That's water the town pays for, but cannot bill. Waterline inspections would be a way to curb lost dollars. The inspections would probably be triggered when property changes hands.

2020 Budget Presentation. Adam Chapdelaine gives the Select Board a presentation on the town's 2020 budget. The town's fiscal year runs from July 1st through June 30th, and the budget is named for the year that it ends.

Budgeting is a year-round process. The town starts working on capital requests in September, and operating budget requests in November. The budget book is submitted to the finance committee in January, and they hold hearings in February. The financial plan is delivered to the Select Board in March; during that month, the finance committee prepares its report to town meeting. Town meeting votes on the budget in April or May.

We expect a 4% year-over-year increase in revenue, giving us $170M. Most of this comes from real estate taxes. Auto excise taxes are the bulk of the "local receipts" category. We're expecting a $20M contribution from the state, which is a 1% increase over last year. The governor would like to provide a 2.7% increase, but that has to go through the state legislature first.

Typically 50% of any budget surplus is moved into free cash (aka, unencumbered funds). We plan to use $4.7M from the override stabilization fund this year.

The town projects $163M in expenditures for FY 2020. We'll follow the usual practice of setting capital expenses to 5% of the operating budget.

The budget has a reserve fund, specified as a percentage of total expenses. This fund is generally used to accommodate extra expenses for snow removal or elections.

The school budget is $70.3M. There's 5% growth in budgeting for general education, and 7% growth in budgeting for special education. About $1M of the school budget growth is attributable to increased enrollment.

Diane Mahon would like to see a finance department within the school department.

Clarissa Rowe speaks favorably about the school's five year financial plan.

The town is planning a major renovation for the senior center. We've also budgeted $100k to pilot a food scrap diversion program. This is similar to composting, but the collector may use the food scraps for something other than compost. The goal is to divert food scraps from the waste stream. This program may be implemented as curbside collection, or neighborhood drop off.

There's money budgeted for the development of a sustainable mobility plan, plus bicycle and pedestrian improvements. In this context, "mobility" refers to the different ways that people get around: driving, bus, bike, walk, etc.

The town manager is proposing a new position, a Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This individual will work with the Human Rights Committee, the Disability Task force, and the Rainbow Commission.

Our 2011 operating override will last until 2021, much longer than the three years it was intended to cover. Preparations are being made for the budget override and debt exclusion in June.

The board moves receipt of the budget presentation.

Debt Exclusion and Operating Override. The current plan is to hold the vote on Tuesday June 11th. Two items will be on the ballot: an operating override (aka proposition 2.5), and a debt exclusion for the high school reconstruction.

The board will develop a set of formal commitments to accompany the override. This list of commitments will be voted on in April.

Joe Curro remarks at how much stability our five-year plan has provided to the budgeting process.

Clarissa Rowe believes we should be transparent to voters, regarding the circumstances behind the budget override.

Diane Mahon believes the board needs to take the override vote very seriously.

John Hurd believes that additional future funding from the state should be used to defer future budget overrides.