It’s a debate that’s taken place every year for at least the past five years, so when it came time to talk about spending down the town’s stabilization fund, town meeting voters knew the drill. With limited discussion to supplement presentations by the Selectmen and Advisory Committee, Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to use $417K from stabilization to fund town budgets.
In a separate vote, Town Meeting approved using $89K of stabilization money to fund K-8 school technology. That’s a total of $506K that will be pulled from the town’s so-called rainy day fund in fiscal year 2011, bringing the fund down to $400K, the minimum amount recommended by the Advisory Committee.
By choosing to use stabilization money to fund the $43M municipal budget, voters kept the expected tax increase for next year at 3.4%, which amounts to $264 in additional taxes for the average home. If voters had decided not to use stabilization funds, the tax increase would have been 5%.
Selectman Bill Boland argued against tapping into the stabilization fund, saying the Board of Selectmen recommends keeping 5% of the town’s budget in the fund to cover emergencies and to protect the fiscal health of the town. That would have the fund at about $2M.
Boland also noted that if voters chose to spend down the stabilization fund to the $400K level recommended by Advisory, they wouldn’t have the option to do the same next year. “We’re on the road next year or the following year to having services slashed.”
But Advisory Committee member John Butler said not having the stabilization fund as a buffer means municipal budgets will truly be “pay as you go” in future years. “It’s the lowest-cost way for you to buy whatever services you want from this town and not waste any money,” he said.
In other town meeting news, voters funded a number of capital items including school technology, a new (used) sander for the DPW, and a new police cruiser. Voters weren’t so accommodating when it came to a proposed change to the town bylaw that sought to give police more control over traffic enforcement on road construction project. The article was soundly defeated.
I’ll have more on these topics — and I’ll tell you about an attempt to get Town Meeting to reconsider it’s decision on Quinn Bill funding — in an upcoming post.