Town Meeting 2019: Updated overview of Warrant, context, and links (plus the Annual Report)

Above: To prepare for Town Meeting some voters will want to dive into the official Budget Book and Annual Report. Others will just want the basic overview. Info and links for both kinds of voters are below.

Tomorrow, voters will again have a lot of decisions to make about how to spend taxpayer money and run our government.

Residents will authorize how much our taxes go up, what projects for the community will move ahead or get pushed/scrapped, and what changes are made to the Town’s bylaws.

Trying to read the whole Warrant can be intimidating and confusing – especially to newbies. (And proponents of moving the meeting to open on Saturday are hoping for a lot of you.) So, I’ve tried 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 for the fiscal year beginning July 1st:

The FY2020 budget is a continuation of a multi -year challenge to mitigate tax rate increases as the construction of the Public Safety Facility is well underway, and Recreation facility
repairs and improvements, Library renovations and repairs, 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.

Readers who have been closely following the budget issues this year know that a lot of compromises were made along the way. The final result is a less than 3% projected tax increase. (The book lists it as 2.67%. I believe that will be changed to 2.68% based on one updated Capital Expense. But we’ll all find out the real final number tomorrow.)

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 2018 Annual Report has been posted. You can read that here.

Town Meeting is scheduled to start at 1:00 pm on Saturday, March 23rd at Trottier Middle School. (For more details on the meeting schedule, click here.) Free onsite babysitting will be provided, though pre-registration is requested. 

Now, here’s my updated overview of the 2019 Warrant. For those of you new to Town Meeting, the first several Articles are usually pro forma with little to no discussion. I’ve bolded the Articles that I think will require discussion (or prompt debate).

1: To Hear Reports (Brief presentations from some committees or departments. The last I heard, the only planned presentations were from the Library, Public Safety Building, and possibly Open Space. There will also be presentations from Town Finance and the Advisory Committee. But I believe those will likely be prior to Article 10.)

2 – 6: The following Articles are annual/periodic authorizations for the Town to handle administrative/financial issues:

2: Acceptance of Monies from Contributors

3: Borrowing Authorization

4: Authorizing Application of Bond Premiums to Capital Projects

5: Application of Bond Premiums to Capital Projects

6: Authorize Board of Selectmen and Supt. of Schools/Three Year Contracts

7: Amend the Personnel Salary Administration Plan (There was nothing really big this year. But one specific stipend added has been debated and may be debated again tomorrow. You can read about that and other changes here.)

8: Establish Water Enterprise Fund (Administrative change to segregate water revenue and expenses from General Fund revenue and expenses. It doesn’t seem controversial. But if it fails to pass, selectmen will need to propose a change to the budget under Article 11 to wrap water back into it.)

9 – 10: More annual/periodic authorizations:

9: Funding Union Contracts

10: Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Transfers

11: FY20 Operating Budget 

For the breakdown by budget buckets, see page 26 of the Warrant. For an explanation from each dept/committee, see the Budget Book. You can also see the Advisory Committee’s report to Town Meeting voters here.

The process is that voters are given a chance to hold any budgets they want to question. The rest are passed as a group vote. Then held budgets are addressed individually. (I am anticipating holds on the Open Space Preservation Commission and Youth Commission budgets. You can read about that here.)

12: Fiscal Year Water Budget (Follows up on Article 8)

13: General Government Capital Items

Expect the Town to amend this. Most of the updated asks are in the Budget Book, but one more change since that was printed was an increase the cost to Kallander Field (H). There is  potential for debates over that item and the Private Fiber Extension (A).

My list below reflects updated figures I believe voters will be asked to approve. You can find more details on the projects on page 37 of the Warrant.

A. IT – Private Fiber Extension to Overlook Road $30,100
B. Library – Basement Waterproofing $250,000
C. Library – A/C Condenser (Engineering & Installation) $100,000
D. Police – Cruiser Camera System $3,555 
E. DPW – Cemetery Tractor $12,000
F. DPW – Large Truck & Equipment Body Work $18,000
G. DPW – Road Maintenance $325,000
H. Recreation – Kallander Field Eng. & Study $19,200
I. Fire – Breathing Air Compressor $60,000
J. Fire – Radio System Upgrades $70,000

14 – 17: More fiscal & administrative authorizations

14: Payment to Retirees for Accrued Leave Time ($39,435)

15: Facilities Maintenance Fund ($100K)

16: Adding Golf Course Revolving Fund for user fees to be used for running the Golf Course.

17: Authorizing use of Revolving Funds

0 Kimberly Lane from GIS Maps18: Accept Deed of Conveyance for 0 Kimberly Lane (Accepts a deed to 3.3 undeveloped acres in lieu of tax foreclosure. It was taken off the table by the owner at the last minute in 2018. This year, the owner entered a purchase and sale agreement with the Town. If he doesn’t go through with the conveyence, the Town will foreclose.)

19 – 21: Annual Community Preservation Act administrative authorizations:

19: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Administrative

20: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Debt Payment for Burnett House (expense incurred through past vote)

21: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Debt Payment for Halloran Property (expense incurred through past vote)

CPA Project Articles 22 – 24: 

Article 25: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Library Facade Restoration Project (Selectmen may attempt to amend this more than $1M project to restore the deteriorating 1911 section of the building based on the inclusion of a preservation clause. If that fails, they may advocate voting the article down. Read more on that here.)

Article 26: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Restoration/Preservation of Civil War Flag and archiving project ($50,990 – $20-22K of the money would fund restoration of the Civil War era flag. The remainder would be used for archival supplies and about 750 hours for a professional to complete the society’s conservation of its collection. Read more on that here.)

Article 27: Appropriation from CPA FundsRemoval of Invasive Species (Up to $20,300 to replace invasive plants with native species on town-owned conservation land. Read more on that here.)

25: Amend Town Code – Date and Time of Annual Town Meeting (Change opening day to the last Saturday in March)

26: Amend Town Code – Demolition Delay Hearing Process (Increases the number of days allowed for the Historical Commission to schedule a hearing from 15 to 45 days. This is to allow for compliance with Open Meeting Law.)

27: Amend Town Code – Prohibition of Meetings on Election Day or during Weather related closings (To prohibit a board or committee from holding a regularly scheduled meeting during a weather or other emergency – except for that instant emergency – or from scheduling a meeting on election days.)

28: Amend Town Code – Public Trees (The Planning Board is asking to codify Town policy already in place to allow the Town to seek status as a Tree City USA. Read more on that here.)

29 – 35: The following are all Articles brought to Town Meeting by Citizen Petitions:

29: Amend Town Code: Electioneering (Rescinds language prohibiting electioneering at Town Meeting and addresses Article sponsor materials displays. Read more on that here.)

30: Establish Recreation Resources Committee (Non-Binding Resolution to form a special committee to develop recreation partnerships. [Editor’s Note: The proponent is a MySouthborough sponsor, paying to advertise that initiative on the blog.] Read more on the proponent’s presentation to selectmen here and more details in an earlier post here.) 

31: Amend Town Code: Attendance Records for Elected Boards (Would require all elected boards to maintain meeting attendance records and make them accessible. Read more on that here.) 

32: Amend Town Code: Advisory Committee (Changing the method for selecting Advisory Committee’s leadership positions. Read more on that here.)

33: Amend Town Code: Town Counsel (Town’s attorneys – Appointment, responsibilities, and conduct. Read more on that here.)

34: Amend Town Code: Prohibited Conduct Policy (Prohibited Conduct for Town employees and officials. Read more on that here.)

35: PILOT Agreements (It asks selectmen to pursue increased contributions from non-profits that own $3M+ of property in Southborough. Given the number of ongoing comments and discussion, I expect this non-binding resolution to provoke debate. Read more on that here.)

For the full Warrant, click here to open the pdf. You can find more details about Town Meeting on the Town’s website, here.

Updated (3/23/19 10:55 am): Oops, I had the wrong tags below. (I used last year’s post as a template.) You can find more 2019 ATM news here.

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