WHITMAN — The Finance Committee is expected to complete work on Article 2 of the annual Town Meeting — the fiscal 2018 budget — during its Tuesday, April 25 meeting.
The committee met Thursday, April 13 to vote on several articles on which it had not yet made a recommendation, or to revote some articles on which new information was available.
Town Administrator Frank Lynam also briefed the committee on plans for a Monday, June 12 meeting involving the TAs of Whitman and Hanson as well as “motivated representatives” from each finance committee and select board to begin the work of outlining the need for an override next year. The School Committee would act as a resource for that committee.
“Unless we can develop a plan that comes from the towns, that has that full support and endorsement, we’re never going to get to the people,” Lynam said. “We’ll start preparing the argument for why we need more money. If that doesn’t work, next year they won’t be even be looking at level-funding — we’ll be looking at cutting both town and schools, because the money just isn’t there.”
Lynam said a funding plan has to be developed for all town and school needs.
Articles recommended April 13 included:
• $70,926.90 from Reserve Appropriation Ambulance Account for third of seven lease purchase payments on a pumping engine;
• $60,000 from Reserve Appropriation Ambulance Account to refurbish a 1990 pumping engine;
• $40,050.28 from Reserve Appropriation Ambulance Account for the first of five lease purchase payments for the new ambulance approved by Town Meeting last year;
• $22,204 from Reserve Appropriation Ambulance Account for a 10-percent match of a regional grant for self-contained breathing apparatus;
• $548,168.72 from available Chapter 90 funds to resurface and/or install surface treatments or line painting to town streets;
• $42,105.55 for the first of four lease purchase payments for a new sidewalk plow;
• $3,500 to purchase firewalls no longer supported for Town Hall computers;
• $11,0000 for a multifunction copier/printer to replace a nine-year-old machine at Town Hall;
• $28,000 for card access controllers and associated equipment for the DPW administration building, Senior Center and west and rear exterior doors at Town Hall;
• $15,000 to replace aging computer equipment at the DPW administration building, Senior Center and Town Hall;
• $10,000 to secure and maintain properties in tax title/foreclosure;
• An article to expand excise tax abatements for deployed active duty military personnel.
Revolving account expenditures; school, police and fire department building debts; Title 5 loan debts; an OPEB liabilities assessment; police cruiser, motorcycle, radios and Taser purchases and/or payments have also been previously recommended.
The committee is divided over the $310,000 fire department override to hire three new firefighter/paramedics, plus a $20,000 transfer from the Reserve Appropriation Ambulance Account to equip the new hires.
Chairman Michael Minchello said he was not convinced the hires would reduce overtime, but Lynam said the article could not direct the fire chief in how to assign staff.
“Why not wrap this into a town-wide override next year?” Minchello said.
Vice Chairman Randy LaMattina said the increasing call volume, with no staffing increase since 1972, dictates that the personnel are needed.
“He makes a solid case of needing that extra man [per shift] for functionality,” LaMattina said. “This is a tough one. … My vote is to let the voters decide.”
Not recommended April 13 were articles for:
• Raise and appropriate $119,675 to purchase and equip a 2017 International 35,000-pound plow truck;
• Raise and appropriate $48,500 to purchase and equip a 2017 Chevrolet K 3500 4X4 truck with plow;
Three citizen’s petitions seeking acceptance of Paul Street as a public roadway, a town donation of $1,500 to Health Imperatives’ violence intervention and prevention programs and a by-law change to the membership of the Finance Committee were also not recommended in past votes.
Lynam said DPW Highway Superintendent Bruce Martin is aware the truck articles would not be recommended.
“He would like it, but he really wants the [sidewalk] snow plow,” Lynam said, noting that any unused Chapter 70 funds at the end of the year would be earmarked for a new plow truck next year.
Minchello said that the sidewalk plow was necessary for the safety of children walking to school in winter.
“It spent one night [broken down] on one of the side streets and they had to tow it,” he said. “Without the sidewalk plows, this is why they delay school a second day after a snowstorm.”