NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 25, 2013

Voters to consider $13M budget at Town Meeting

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Voters gather at 7 p.m. in the Town Annex Monday to take up an annual warrant that includes a proposed $13 million operating budget.

Finance Director Warren Sproul reported that there is a general increase of 5 percent year over year in the entire budget. It consists of a 1.9 percent increase on the town side and an 8.1 percent on the education side. He added that financing for Phase II of the Page Elementary School Renovation project is a factor in the hike on spending for education next year.

The budget assumes “a very modest” amount of new growth revenues and level funding in state aid. Selectmen are proposing a 2 percent increase in salary for the town’s non-contractual employees, similar to what contractual employees are receiving.

An additional police officer is funded within the budget at $55,584.40. Adjustments were made elsewhere in the police salary and expense line items to moderate the cost for the new position, Sproul reported.

“We maintain a strong position of free cash, contribute to other post employment benefits, and fund capital expenditures via a healthy Stabilization Account,” the Finance Committee states in its Appropriations booklet.

Going into the annual meeting the town has $1.46 million in its free cash account, but if all the proposed articles that tap free cash are passed, that balance drops to $913,000.

The Stabilization Account shows a balance of $810,000 to be used for large capital improvements. And there is $1.51 million in the Community Preservation Account for expenditures on open space, affordable housing, historic preservation and recreation.

A majority of selectmen and the Finance Committee are recommending voters approve all requests on the annual warrant except one bylaw change — an amendment to the Zoning By-law Site Plan Review that selectmen felt was “overregulation.”

The Finance Committee also disapproved of a proposal by the Energy Advisory Committee to adopt the Board of Building Regulations and Standards Stretch Code. Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles Jr. also voted no, but his colleagues Glenn Kemper and Dick Cushing agreed it should be left to the will-of-the-town.

A Special Town Meeting warrant, which voters will also consider on Monday, includes requests of:

$40,100 to install a bridge and boardwalk in the Riverbend area and $14,200 to replace the Mill Pond roof, with the money coming from the Community Preservation Act account.

$175,000 for road and sidewalk improvements

$182,840 for a four-wheel drive loader and $59,000 for a roadside mower for the Public Works Department

$33,912 for new carpeting in the Town Annex and 1910 Town Office Buildings

$159,404 to increase contingency funds for the Page School Renovation project and $105,690 for flooring upgrades in the school’s new cafetorium. A majority of selectmen approved funding the flooring upgrades, but the Finance Committee did not. All other special warrant articles received a majority vote from the town leaders.