HANSON — The Board of Selectmen has voted to authorize Town Administrator Michael McCue to present his fiscal 2018 budget recommendations to the Board of Finance.
The Feb. 7 vote followed a brief discussion of the recommendations’ highlights.
McCue’s recommended total of all town budgets is currently at $24,638,156 — 5.09 percent higher than the current $23,441,725 fiscal 2017 budget. Department requests total $27,714,638 — or 5.43 percent over the current budget.
McCue said he will set up a meeting with School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes at the Tuesday, Feb. 28 on the school budget request. He also plans to have further conversations with other department heads regarding their requests.
“Dependent upon the final amount voted for the schools and, also, dependent upon the final budget voted on by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we may still make some minor adjustments and we may be able to address some of the requests from the other departments,” McCue said. “At this point, we’ve made the judgment to level fund.”
No salary increases are currently included in the budget.
The Fire Department budget line includes $20,000 in realized overtime adjustments over the last few years as well as a change in hospitals’ procedures, which now require departments to pay for expendable equipment once provided at no cost. The training line item is also up a bit due to the number of recent new hires at the Fire Department.
The Highway Department budget has also increased $60,000 to more realistically reflect repairs required over the last couple of years, McCue said.
‘It doesn’t necessarily mean that $60,000 will be spent, but it is more reflective of the trends of spending over the last few years,” McCue said.
The Police Department budget has decreased slightly.
The Recreation Commission budget has been increased by about $28,000 for supplies and projects, also based on trends over the last few years, according to McCue, who added those funds would come from retained earnings.
“As we move forward with some things at the camp, we realize it’s going to cost a little more,” he said.
McCue also replaced an engineering line in the Selectmen/Town Administrator’s account for $5,000 in order to undertake certain minor projects that require a professional engineer. It is an account he has used in other towns where he has worked.
A new utility contract, which costs $90,000, rather than the $84,000 under the last contract reflects that rate increase of that line to $124,750.
Debt has increased, including the cost of razing the Plymouth County Hospital as other debts are decreasing. The town has also been advised to prepare for a 25-percent spike in health insurance costs, while McCue and the town accountant are working to try to limit the increase.
“It did come as quite a surprise,” said McCue, noting the increase was 15 percent last year.
A new contract at the Water Department increases its salary line by $50,000, McCue said. An increase from $281,465 to $406,495 in the Water Department debt service account is due to the cost of cleaning the water tank.
In other business, the board delayed a vote on the appointment of Pembroke Animal Control Officer William Hart in a regional capacity, pending finalization of an inter-municipal agreement with Pembroke. Hart’s appointment would be effective through March 31, 2018.
Pembroke’s town counsel is still reviewing the draft agreement, McCue said. He has proposed, among other provisions in the contract, that salary payment be based on population as the former regional agreement with Abington and Whitman had stipulated.
The board had the option of approving the contract last week, but members opted to wait until Pembroke’s final decision.
Selectman Bill Scott, during his update on the work of the Highway Building Committee, reported that contamination at the site on the former Lite Control property has been cleared out, contrary to rumors he has heard around town.
“The site that the town is receiving is a clean site outside the buffer zones for conservation,” he said, noting that project costs estimated at between $4 million and $4.5 million, are not expected to run higher and would include cleanup.
“There are currently about 100 DEP sites in Hanson — that one being one of them,” he said.