Post image for Town Meeting Update: Officials grappling with budget demands, may table some expenses to a Fall Special

This winter, the Town’s Finance team and the Board of Selectmen have been hashing out the Fiscal Year 2021 budget to bring to Annual Town Meeting voters. One option recently floated was tabling some capital spending to a Special Town Meeting in the fall. In the meantime, a committee would better research the Town’s anticipated capital expenses* and how to handle them.

As of this week, selectmen and Finance were still unable to come to an agreement on a budget framework for FY21. Unhappy with long term forecasts, selectmen did approve a policy for the FY22 budget. The board voted not to add any new employee positions or hours in FY22 unless new revenue sources are found to offset the cost.

But that budget is more than a year out. For the FY21 budget, the board is still uncertain about how many positions, hours and benefits to add at department head requests. There were also questions about how to handle capital expenses in the pipeline. Selectmen (and likely the Advisory Committee) plan to tackle big budget decisions at a dedicated meeting on February 4th.

I know, it’s pretty standard to see the Town Finance team and selectmen worrying about the budget this time of year. In fact, the projected increase at this time last year was much higher (an alarming 6%). But by the time the budget got to Town Meeting, the projected tax rate increase** was cut down to 2.67%, a figure that the Advisory Chair referred to as cost of living.

Still, selectmen are now faced with a situation the Finance team warned them about last year – that tough times were ahead, especially starting in FY22. Recent debates have focused less on the impact to this year’s projected tax rate and more on the long term impacts.

Earlier this month, selectmen were dismayed by 5 year budget projections that showed the Town would begin to exceed its “levy capacity” in FY22.***

Vice Chair Marty Healey asked Finance to come back with a version that shows what they would need to do to avoid going into the red around the corner. This week, Treasurer Brian Ballantine presented a new version that did that. The new vision lowered the tax rate increase from 4.46% to about 3.61%. (Some uncertainty still remains about this year’s state aid, state charges, the Southborough assessed share of the school budget, etc.) But it required making cuts that selectmen aren’t entirely on board with yet.  [click to keep reading…]

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Post image for More “Office Hours”: Rep. Dykema on Monday morning; Selectmen Tuesday night

Above: Our representative in state congress is inviting the public to come chat during her in-town quarterly office hours. You’re also invited to chat with one or two members of our Board of Selectmen. (image right from Facebook, left from Town website)

Next week, officials are inviting you to stop by and chat about issues that concern you. Opportunities include both state and Town officials.

State Representative Carolyn Dykema will hold an office hour at the Southborough Library. She invites Southborough residents to stop by.

It’s your quarterly chance to meet Dykema in town and discuss anything that might be on your mind. (Thanks to the Library’s Kuerig, you can also swing by just to have coffee with her.) She will be available from 10:00 – 11:00 am on Monday, January 27th.

If you’re not able to make it and you have something to discuss with the representative, you can contact her office at (617) 722-2210 or email her aide at Benjamin.Kaplan@mahouse.gov to set up a personal appointment either in the district or at the State House.

The next evening, the Board of Selectmen is holding their January office hours. That’s on Tuesday, January 28th from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in the the Town House Hearing Room:

Feel free to drop by to visit, bring a question or concern and provide your feedback to the board members. No appointment necessary!

Future sessions are scheduled for February 18th and March 10th.

Expect to see only one or two members of the board during the “hours” – not enough to make a quorum. (This month, Chair Brian Shea and Lisa Braccio are penciled in to represent the board – but that could change.)

For those of you who shy away from commenting on camera at public meetings and aren’t comfortable posting comments under your names, these are good opportunities to touch base on Town issues you care about. Selectmen are far more likely to follow up on questions and concerns they hear directly from a community member than from an anonymous blog commenter.

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Post image for Trottier’s 3rd annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics – Feb 13

Above: Trottier is again encouraging students to take a “quick dip” for a cause. (images spliced from 2019’s polar plunge album on smug mug, for a closer look, click here.)

Trottier Middle School* is hosting another Polar Plunge to support Special Olympics.

In a few weeks, Special Olympics MA is bringing its pool back to the school. The fundraising site promotes:

For the THIRD TIME, the brrrrrrave students of Trottier Middle School are taking the Plunge and raising funds for over 13,300 athletes of Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Registration opens immediately after school lets out at 2:30 pm and continues until 2:45 pm. Following registration will be a safety briefing. Plunge launches at 2:45 pm sharp! The entire event will wrap up in time for the late buses at 3:50 pm.

But it’s not only students who will be making the leap. Based on past years’ events, expect to see some faculty, administration and even public safety personnel getting soaked.

Participants can register in person after school that day. But by signing up online in advance, jumpers can also use the site to set up an individual or team fundraising page for their plunge. (Some have already taken steps.) 

Last year, the school raised over $14,000 through the plunge. This year, organizers are setting their goal at $15,000. Instead of a set registration fee, participants are asked to set a personal fundraising goal and/or donate to the fundraiser. (You can also donate without setting a toe in the icy waters.)

The event takes place after school on Thursday, February 13th.

As you probably know, the school doesn’t have a pool. The fun takes place in the parking lot, with participants jumping into a big inflatable pool while onlookers cheer.

Last year, Wicked Local captured highlights of the fun in the video below:

Their photographer also tweeted a pretty awesome shot.

For more pics, you can check out the Special Olympic’s smugmug album here.

To sign up, learn more, or support a plunger, click here.

*The fundraiser is organized by the school’s student-run Project Unify club led by teachers Pam Lunder, Lisa Klein, and Lori Scearbo.

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Post image for KofC Free Throw contest for kids – February 3

Above: Knights of Columbus are again encouraging kids to show off their shooting skills.
(image from old competition guide)

KofC 2019 free throw participantsKnights of Columbus Southborough is holding its annual Free Throw Competition for 9-14 year old boys and girls.

(To see winners at last year’s in-town competition, click on the image right.)

The event is free fun for basketball lovers. But for some kids, it’s also a big deal.

Age group winners move on to the district competition with a chance at regional and state competitions February – April. If the winner cannot attend the next level, the runner-up gets the spot.

Come prepared when you bring the kids that night. Because of the stakes, players are required to show proof of age, show parental consent, and provide an email contact. You will also need to complete a registration form. (Note: participants in the Southborough chapter’s competition must be Southborough residents.)

The competition takes place on Monday, February 3rd at Trottier Middle School. Registration opens at 6:00 pm with shooting starting at 6:30.

Details of the competition are the same as in past years: [click to keep reading…]

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On the market this week in Southborough

by beth on January 23, 2020

Post image for On the market this week in Southborough

Above: This home at 6 Harris Drive went on the market this week for $659,000 (MLS photo)

Here’s what went on and off the market this week. Thanks to Gail DuBois (email) of Keller Williams for supplying the town’s new listing information for the week.*

New on the market

Sale pending

  • Lot 0 Davis Road (map) – 9 room, 5 bed, 4f 1h bath Colonial – 188 days on the Market, Listed at $1,250,000

*Listings for the week are based on data pulled from MLS on Thursday mornings.

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Post image for Update on Jan 27 Article hearings: EDC Working Session tonight; New materials posted

As I’ve previously posted, the Planning Board will hold public hearings for four proposed Town Meeting Articles on Monday night. For those interested, here are a few updates.

The hearings are scheduled to begin after 7:00 pm in the Town House Hearing Room. Each hearing can be held later but not sooner than the time listed below:

  • 7:05 pm – Amend Section §174-10 Site plan approval
  • 7:10 pm – Amend Sections §174-9 Special permit requirements, §174-18 Exemptions, §174-19 Extensions or alterations
  • 7:15 pm – Update Section §174-12.1 Outdoor illumination
  • 7:20 pm – Amend zoning bylaw to establish a downtown overlay district, within the current downtown Business Village district

EDC’s Downtown Business Village Zoning Overlay

No new version of the Economic Development Committee’s proposed zoning overlay bylaw has been posted. But it’s likely that the version discussed on Monday night will be revised from the version I shared from the January 6th discussion with the Planning Board. The EDC had invited Planning to work with them on making changes. Since then, EDC held two more meetings that included a discussion on the Article and a “Working Session”.

Tonight, the EDC is scheduled to meet again at 6:30 pm in the Public Safety Building. The agenda includes, “Working Session: Proposed Village Mixed Use District Zoning Article”.

For the other three Articles, new materials have been posted on Planning’s website:

  • Planning’s Site Plan Approval:
  • ZBA’s edits to Special Permit Requirements, Exemptions, Extensions or alterations:
    • Final draft (as of January 21st) – from the Zoning Board of Appeals’ January 15th discussion, I believe only one small gramatical edit was made from the version that I previously shared. (For consistency, they changed one insertion of “structure” to “structural”.)
    • The ZBA’s discussion also confirmed that the Article was prompted by a permit request that drew attention to conflicts in the zoning language around non-conforming structures. Chair Craig Nicholson and staff sought to clarify what owners can/can’t do and make language more consistent with state zoning laws.
    • The discussion also clarified why the Article would remove a sentence stating that no special permits would be granted for non-conforming signs under that subsection. ZBA Assistant Katie Barry explained that she and Planning staff determined the language was no longer relevant since “those sections of the law have nothing to do with zoning anymore”.
  • Planning’s Outdoor Lighting:

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February break programs through Rec: All Sports Clinics & Skyrise Theater

January 23, 2020 08:27:17 AM
Thumbnail image for February break programs through Rec: All Sports Clinics & Skyrise Theater

February school break is less than a month away. If you need to find something to occupy your children that week, Southborough Recreation has a couple of options.

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Police Alert: Man reportedly exposed himself to child walking after school

January 22, 2020 06:58:43 PM
Thumbnail image for Police Alert: Man reportedly exposed himself to child walking after school

Police are notifying the public to be on the alert after a man allegedly exposed himself to a child this afternoon.

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Wick Choral Festival – next week

January 22, 2020 04:36:44 PM
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Southborough residents are invited to a enjoy a weekend of a cappella pop music at St. Mark’s featuring groups from area high schools, as well as college ensembles.

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APTO Update: Casa Vallarta night on January 30

January 22, 2020 03:45:30 PM
Thumbnail image for APTO Update: Casa Vallarta night on January 30

The Algonquin Parents & Teacher Organization is promoting its latest news and events. They asked me to help them spread the word.

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SPD Updates: More charges pressed for burglaries and robbery, police logs, and other news

January 22, 2020 02:12:53 PM
Thumbnail image for SPD Updates: More charges pressed for burglaries and robbery, police logs, and other news

The latest logs and updates from the Southborough Police Department.

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Trottier students to perform “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure JR.” – Friday and Saturday

January 22, 2020 07:26:23 AM
Thumbnail image for Trottier students to perform “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure JR.” – Friday and Saturday

This weekend, Southborough middle schoolers will bring the popular animated movie Madagascar to life.

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Obituary: Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Grace Berke, 73

January 21, 2020 04:50:11 PM
Thumbnail image for Obituary: Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Grace Berke, 73

Betty Grace Berke passed away on January 4, 2020 on Amelia Island, FL, after a courageous five-year battle with ovarian cancer.

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This week in sports

January 21, 2020 03:51:41 PM
Thumbnail image for This week in sports

Highlights from last week’s competitions and what’s on tap this week in high school sports.

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