WEST NEWBURY – Voters were in a positive mood at Town Meeting Monday, giving thumbs up to nearly every request on the annual and special warrants -- including those for which some town leaders were less than supportive.
They approved a $12,802,365 budget –-up 5 percent over this year’s spending plan. At the meeting’s end, the town’s excess tax levy capacity stood at $37,467; with $760,592 remaining in Free Cash and $834,282 in the stabilization account.
Finance Director Warren Sproul said he was “very conservative” with his budget estimates and predicts that town will be in good shape for the upcoming year.
The new spending plan fully funds the Pentucket Regional School District assessment, gives a 2 percent raise to non-union employees, and –- thanks to an amendment on Town Meeting floor by Dave Kapturowski –- provides selectmen an annual stipend of $500 each.
It also covers one additional full-time police officer – a position Chief Lisa Holmes has tried to get funded for the past 5 years. This year, Holmes level-funded police department expenses, reduced her administrative assistance position to 32 hours, and cut back on funding for reserve police officers and overtime hours in order to make room for the new position within her budget.
Following the meeting, she praised town leaders for their partnership on this effort and thanked voters for their support.
“This year, we all worked together in order to make this work,” she said.
Voters also supported two requests on a special warrant for additional funding for the Page School renovation project. A $159,404 increase in contingency funds was generally viewed as prudent planning for worse case scenarios as the $10 million project wraps up this fall. The Free Cash expense doesn’t increase the scope of the project and the funds will be returned if not used. Currently the construction contingency balance stands at $245,711.