WHITMAN — The Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday, March 26 to advise the Finance Committee, it could not support a 10-percent increase in the town’s assessment for the W-H School District.
Last week, Selectmen, meeting with the Finance Committee discussed two budget scenarios, one of which provided for a 6-percent school assessment increase and the other, 10 percent.
“Of those two scenarios, one of them would be devastating to every other department in the town — the one with the 10-percent increase,” Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski said. “The other column still presents cuts in the amount of money that goes to departments, some of which would have to be personnel, and all of that rests on an override to overcome it.”
Kowalski said with the schools asking for 15 percent, the Finance Committee’s seeming willingness to give them 10 percent and the potential effect on the town’s services, he would entertain a motion to inform the FinCom that “the 10-percent option is really not on the board.”
“The idea right now is 10 percent isn’t going to work for anybody and you know how hard it is for me to say that with my history with the schools,” said Kowalski, who has served on the School Committee in the past and is an educator himself.
Selectmen Daniel Salvucci, making the motion for discussion said any budget option should leave the town “as harmless as possible.”
“It seems like we’re controlling our [costs] and holding down the raises .. and I’d like to see that maintained,” he said. “[The schools] need to look at their budget and come up with something that helps both communities.”
Kowalski said Hanson is willing to give the schools somewhere between 5 and 6 percent — amounting to a 6.5-percent increase for Whitman, or $862,562, and $579,367 to Hanson.
Town Administrator Frank Lynam said his talks with Hanson Town Administrator Michael McCue indicated Hanson could afford 6.5 percent.
“They’re not going to be happy with 10, so obviously, they’re not going to be happy with 6 … however, it’s more realistic to say that at this point in the game, we need to think not just about the schools, but the other departments, too,” Kowalski said. “I think I’d like to send a signal that 10 percent is not something that we can consider at this time.”
He said he wanted to avoid splitting the town up between the schools and the other departments.
Lynam is also working to reduce the override needed to close the budget gap and, if the debt exclusion to remove the police station from within the levy is approved, that could also add to the funds available.
“What we’re trying to do is keep everybody as harmless as possible,” Kowalski said. “I don’t want a situation where everyone is thinking an override is just for the schools — it’s an override for the town.”
“As I understand it, you are working on a version of the budget yourself, somewhat different from the Finance Committee,” Kowalski asked Lynam. “What should happen between now and next week [when Selectmen next meet] is you’ll give us a report in writing and we’ll be able to discuss it as a board … so that we can give direction to the Finance Committee.”
Kowalski said it made sense to give the Finance Committee a bit of direction that night as school officials were meeting with the FinCom at the same time, and Lynam was scheduled to join the Finance Committee’s meeting after Selectmen concluded their meeting.
In other business, Salvucci said the MBTA advisory board has indicated Whitman’s assessment will be reduced from $74,166 to $49,908 — a 30-percent saving of $24,258.
“I’m really afraid to ask why,” Lynam said, suggesting that Whitman is also part of Brockton Area Transit an suggested perhaps the reason was that the BAT assessment increased.
Salvucci said the MBTA pointed to the “make-up of the town” and fare increases for the reasoning.
Selectmen also approved a Class II Auto Dealer’s license for Ally Motors, 934 Temple St., limiting the amount of cars permitted to 60, as currently allowed by the license, and giving the owners 14 days to remove an additional 25 cars now on the property.
Building Inspector Bob Curran, after he and Lynam visited the site last week, said there had been complaints about vehicles blocking sidewalk access in the area and that there were too many cars on the property.
Abutter Craig Donahue, who lives behind the business on Sportsmans Trail, said he and an elderly neighbor said Donahue had purchased a buffer lot between the two homes and the business.
“They’ve been fairly good neighbors,” he said of the car lot. “But over a period of time, they have been parking more and more vehicles in that field behind their business.”
He expressed concern that a dump truck, used to spread substrate for a parking lot hit utility wires, causing a power failure to the area last summer. They are also concerned about how a building on the site is being used.
Business owners apologized for the dump truck incident and pointed out they called the fire department and NStar as soon as it happened and that the building in question is used only for detailing, no mechanic work.