WHITMAN — Voters will resume the Whitman Town Meeting at 7:30 p.m., Monday, June 17 after a debt exclusion question on the May 18 Town Election ballot freed up funds for some capital articles. Town Meeting will be held in the Town Hall auditorium.
The debt exclusion removed remaining payments on the new police station and renovations to Town Hall and the fire station from the tax levy. Finance Committee members met Tuesday, June 11 to prioritize Articles 29 through 49 not acted on before Town Meeting adjourned on May 6.
Some articles, including school projects given lower priority on the School District’s capital matrix and some town vehicle requests, were either amended, passed over or not recommended by the Finance Committee.
Town Administrator Frank Lynam said that, as of the time the May 6 Town Meeting session ended, there was $7,491 left in the levy and $439,115 remaining in free cash and $179,227 in capital stabilization.
Selectmen have voted to increase the capital stabilization account by $150,000.
“In order to accomplish that, in our Town Meeting on June 17, our first vote will be to take that money that had been paid from free cash and transfer that to capital stabilization,” Lynam said. “We can’t put it back in free cash.”
The second vote would be to raise and appropriate the money needed to complete the payment for the debt. A portion had already been voted on May 6 and by-law forbids reconsideration at the June 17 session, according to Lynam.
There is $943,242 available for votes on articles on Monday. There are $973,948 in pending requests.
“The committee has to decide how much of the money that’s available, assuming the special Town Meeting is voted as presented, of those balances that we want to remain,” said Finance Committee Chairman Richard Anderson.
“There will be an amendment prepared for each article,” Lynam said. “Every article is going to have to be amended on the floor.”
One of the amendments to control costs is the Finance Committee’s recommendation to support the purchase of two police cruisers instead of the three — at a cost of $65,870.65 — requested by Police Chief Scott Benton.
“All things being relative, if the money was there and we didn’t have a need for it, then I would support that,” Lynam said. He also recommended the purchase of only two of the three plow vehicles requested by the DPW, with which the Finance Committee concurred.
“[They’re] putting body paste on these vehicles so they pass inspection,” Anderson said of the DPW trucks that need replacement. “They’re in that bad a shape. … We have said no to the DPW more than we have to anyone else.”
Anderson reminded the Finance Committee that Benton could further amend to go back to the three vehicles if he felt that strongly about it.
An article to appropriate $100,000 for street paving was unanimously recommended.
When regional school district articles were discussed, former Selectman Scott Lambiase, now a Finance Committee member, asked if there was any sense in recommending articles Hanson voters have passed over.
Lynam said he did not think so, except that some may be revisited at Hanson’s October Town Meeting.
The Finance Committee recommended for passage include: $14,000 for a motorized physical education curtain at Whitman Middle School; $25,000 to replace exterior doors at Whitman’s schools; $45,000 to install thumb-piece latches to all interior classroom and office doors in Whitman schools; $17,946 for Whitman’s share of resurfacing the WHRHS gym floor; $41,874 for Whitman’s share of a handicap ramp to the existing press box at the high school; $20,937 for Whitman’s share of thumb latches at doors in the high school and $14,955 for Whitman’s share of repairs to the fire lane at the high school. A $134,595 share of the cost to spray/resurface the high school’s outdoor track was also recommended.
The recommended articles were at the top of the school’s priorities list.
School articles the Finance Committee recommended be passed over are: articles 42 through 44 — encompassing $59,820 to replace rooftop units at the high school; $44,865 for Whitman’s share of installing solar-powered site lighting and $44,865 to replace two facilities vehicles.
The Finance Committee voted against recommending $125,622 for Whitman’s share of the cost to repair/replace sections of the main roadway into WHRHS. It was the district’s lowest priority of the capital matrix items on the Whitman warrant.
“They’re better than what we’re driving on,” Lynam said.
Finance Committee member Chuck Colby agreed, but expressed concern that Hanson had already approved the expense.
The Finance Committee has also recommended a reduction of interest rate accrues on property taxes deferred by eligible taxpayers for temporary financial hardship (MGL c. 59 §5 clause 18A) from 8 percent to 2 percent.