On Monday, voters will have a lot of decisions to make about how to spend taxpayer money and run our government.
Voters will determine whether taxes go up by 3.82% or up to 4.5% and what projects for the community will move ahead or get pushed/scrapped.*
We will also decide whether or not to make changes to Town Code/bylaws. (All of these are proposed by Town boards. There are no Citizen’s Petitions on ATM Warrant this year. That will have to wait for a potential-yet to be scheduled Special Town Meeting.***)
Trying to read the whole Warrant can be intimidating and confusing. So, I’ve tried to organize and simplify the basics to make it easier to understand what voters are being asked.
The Town’s administration tried to provide context on what is and isn’t included in budgets. From the Budget Book:
The FY2019 budget may be the beginning of a multi -year challenge to mitigate tax rate increases as the construction of the Public Safety Building, Recreation Field repairs and improvements, Golf Course restoration funding, Transfer Station improvements, and Senior Center building improvements are all being proposed for funding considerations. This will require difficult decisions for the Town, as prioritizing these and other requests will become essential in developing future plans and budgets.
The Budget Book doesn’t specify any belt tightening choices that were made during the operating budget process. But the Town Administrator and Treasurer did call out six deferred capital expenses totaling $335,500 pulled from this year’s plan. (You can scroll to the bottom for those.)**
Expect deferred expenses and priorities for future needs to be referenced by some officials and voters when they oppose specific funding Articles. Advisory’s Town Meeting report states:
Of major concern is the continued deferrals of capital requests year after year. This lack of financing for the town’s infrastructure results in a serious deficiency of improvement and repairs to buildings and the replacement of aging equipment.
Before you approve funds for this year’s budget, you might want to know what the Town has been up to over the past year. The 2017 Annual Report has been posted. You can read that here.
Town Meeting is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm on Monday, April 9th at Trottier Middle School. Babysitting will be provided. (If a second night is needed, that is usually scheduled for the following night. But with a pending Special Town Meeting this spring, it’s possible it could be pushed further out to combine the two. That would likely depend on the urgency of remaining Articles.)
Now, here’s my updated overview of the 2018 Warrant.
I’ve bolded the Articles that seem most likely to prompt discussion or debate on the floor. I’ve also included dollar amounts, very brief explanations, and relevant links for more background. (Of course, you can see each full article and official summary in the Warrant.)
Except where specified, each only requires a simple majority vote to pass:
1: To Hear Reports (Brief presentations from committees or departments. This year, the Economic Development Committee and the Library are set to speak. The Public Safety Building Committee will also make a brief update.)
2: Acceptance of Monies from Contributors (annual authorization)
3: Borrowing Authorization (annual authorization)
4: Authorize Board of Selectmen and Supt. of Schools/Three Year Contracts (annual authorization)
5: Amend the Personnel Salary Administration Plan (Click here for coverage of this year’s changes)
6: Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Transfers (annual authorization)
7: FY19 Operating Budget ($53,828,271 – I’m not aware of any budget controversies – but it’s pretty common for a voter to call out one or more budgets for objection or requested explanation. For the breakdown by budget buckets, see the Warrant. For an explanation from each dept/committee, see the Budget Book. You can also see the planned presentation here. )
8: General Government Capital Items ($1,035,000 broken down below)
A. MIS – Private Fiber Line to Cordaville Road – $30,000
B. MIS – Upgrade Library Phone System – $8,000
C. Facilities – Replace Air Compressor Unit – $12,500
D. Library – Engineering for Drainage/Waterproofing – $15,000
E. Facilities – Town House ADA updates – $25,000
F. DPW – Replace Transfer Station trailer – $55,000
G. DPW – Sidewalk Plow/Snowblower/Sweeper – $160,000
H. DPW – Replace Radio System – $165,000
I. Repaving of Town House Parking Lot – $150,000
J. DPW – Road Maintenance – $400,000
K. Emergency Management – Message Board – $14,500
9: Insurance Deductible Account ($1,035,000 – The fund needs to be replenished – it was last funded in 2006.)
10: Payment to Retirees for Accrued Leave Time ($17,000 – The fund needs to be replenished – it was last funded in 2016.)
11: Fund to Hire Consultants and Engineers ($25,000 – The fund needs to be replenished – it was last funded in 2015.)
12: Facilities Maintenance Fund ($100,000 – Annual expense)
13: Payment of FY17 Outstanding Invoice ($1,050 – Requires 4/5 approval – The expense was authorized and incurred in a past fiscal year. The invoice was misplaced by Town during staff transition and the vendor is still owed. Because of the time lapse, state law requires special authorization.)
14: Feasibility Study/Design for Senior Center Renovation ($30,000 – Click here for coverage of this Article)
15: Southborough Golf Club – Capital Restorations ($300,000 – Fixing issues caused by the construction of the Public Safety Building, to allow continued operations of the Golf Course. These are the expenses that couldn’t be covered by the building project or the CPA. Click here for background. [Check here to see if the video of the related forum held at the Library last night is posted yet.] Note: This Article may be amended for a lower amount based on the bids that came back. The figures that came back were lower – but I don’t know how much contingency Town officials will want to leave in.)
16: Recreation Facilities – Repairs to Depietri & Kallander Fields, Trottier School Track ($744,300 – Requires 2/3 approval – Advisory has opined on them separately and there is potential for an opponent to amend to remove/reduce one of the three projects. So here’s the breakout: A. Depietri Field $197,400; B. Kallander Field $267,400; C Trottier Track $279,500)
17: Recreation Facilities – Neary School Turf Field Design and Permitting ($200,000 – Requires 2/3 approval)
18: Recreation Facilities – Lundblad Field Design and Consulting ($75,000 – Requires 2/3 approval)
19: Amend Town Code – Revolving Funds (Administrative – this is to comply with the state’s Municipal Modernization Act. All revolving funds listed as being “created” already exist.)
20: Annual Authorization of Revolving Fund Amounts (annual authorization)
21: Accept Deed of Conveyance for 0 Kimberly Lane (Requires 2/3 approval – Accepts a deed to 3.3 undeveloped acres in lieu of tax foreclosure. You can read more here.)
22: Acceptance of MGL to Update Senior Tax Exemption (Updates the income eligibility requirement from the static numbers adopted in 2002 to be adjusted annually for COLA [Cost of Living Adjustment])
23: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Administrative (annual authorization)
24: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Debt Payment for Burnett House ($109,072 – annual authorization to pay loan expense incurred through past vote)
CPA Articles 25 – 27: Click here for my coverage of these Articles with more context.
Article 25: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Restoration of Old Burial Ground ($26,450 – Restoring/preserving historic headstones at the 1730-1898 cemetery)
Article 26: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Library Facade Restoration Project ($32,530 – Assessment stage of project to preserve the facade of the historic portion of the Library, built in 1911.)
Article 27: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Acquisition of 0 Rockpoint Road ($175,000 – Requires 2/3 approval – for approx. 30 acre parcel of woodlands with trails. Click here for a planned presentation on the Article.)
CPA Articles 28 – 30: Click here for my coverage of these Articles and here for more background. You can see all past posts related to the golf course here. [Check here to see if the video of the related forum held at the Library last night is posted yet.])
Article 28: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Golf Course CR Endowment and Costs ($50,000 – Expenses associated with the Conservation Restriction)
Article 29: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Golf Course Parking Lot and Restoration ($581,716 – Fixing issues caused by the construction of the Public Safety Building, to allow continued operations of the Golf Course. These are the expenses that could be included under CPA – those that can’t are under Article 15. Note: This Article may be amended for a lower amount based on the bids that came back. The figures that came back were lower – but I don’t know how much contingency Town officials will want to leave in.)
Article 30: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Audubon Program for the Golf Course ($15,000 – Provides resources for the Town to develop a management plan in keeping with the CR.)
Article 31: Acceptance of Coslin Way and Washington Street as a Public Way (Requires 2/3 approval – Accepting roads constructed by EMC as Town streets. You can read more here.)
Article 32: Amend Article III of Zoning Code – Appeal Process (Requires 2/3 approval – The change would send anyone appealing a Planning Board action related to Site Plan Review to the Land Court instead of allowing the option of appealing to Southborough’s Zoning Board of Appeals – Click here for coverage.)
Articles 33 – 36: Click here for my coverage of these Articles
33: Amend Town Code – Eliminate Reconsideration of a Vote (Would remove the option for Town Meeting voters to reconsider their vote on an Article.)
34: Amend Town Code – Motion to Reconsider a Vote (If 33 doesn’t pass, this would clarify the process for Town Meeting voters to reconsider their vote on an Article.)
35: Amend Town Code – Consent Agenda for Town Meeting Warrant (This would allow the moderator to bundle articles that voters have no objections to, to be passed by a single vote.)
36: Establish Regional School Stabilization Fund (This would be used for the school’s future capital needs.)
*It’s possible for voters to demand a tax increase by reducing some budgets (which has been done on the floor in the past) and rejecting special funding Articles. But it doesn’t seem likely for both of those things to happen.
**Voters won’t be asked to fund the following deferred capital expenses in FY19:
- DPW: Collapsed Culvert – $40,000 (Northborough Road – The DPW determined that the temporary repair is holding, and the permanent repair work can be held off until FY20.)
- Facilities: Cordaville Hall Storage Sheds – would have been $16,500
- Library: Interior Renovations (Floors & Painting) – $95,000 (Waiting until water infiltration issues better identified under Article 26)
- DPW: EPA Storm Water Permit Work – $150,000 (Regulations surrounding these new EPA requirements are not yet finalized)
- Town House: Digital Preservation – $25,000 (To ensure records and documents in the basement of the Town House are not lost to time and the elements.)
- Town House: Replacement Copier – $9,000
***Updated (4/8/18 1:54 pm): Residents behind the Citizen’s Petition Article who thought a Special Town Meeting would be compelled were notified that if they want the meeting they will need to submit a new petition with different wording. To learn more about that, click here to see the related Letter to the Editor.
Updated (4/9/18 2:11 pm): The Town got in bids on the Public Safety Building. (You can see a summary of those in the packet for tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting.) There will be an update on the project tonight. I believe it is also likely that Articles 15 and 29 will be amended to reduce the funding requests based on the lower figures that came back.