WHITMAN — Town officials are recalculating the budget’s bottom line after it was discovered that there is a greater revenue problem than was previously thought.
A large sum of money from the National Grid personal property revenue, being considered as a source for capital needs spending in fiscal 2018, had already been incorporated into the $780,000 excess levy that was recognized last year.
“As of this moment, in order to meet all of the requests within Article 2, and the requests that are in [other] articles, we’re almost $790,00 upside down,” Town Administrator Frank Lynam said Tuesday, March 28. “We will be working over the next couple of days — the Finance Committee chair and myself — trying to identify where we may be able to address some these issues.”
Lynam also told the Board of Selectmen, scheduled to review draft warrants for the annual and special Town Meetings, that the Finance Committee was still working on them.
Selectmen were provided with a summary of current budget numbers including $29,997,000 in requests for funding. Spending articles outside the Article 2 municipal budget bring the request total to $30,189,000. Capital expense articles add another $1,296,000.
“Nothing in this is frivolous, but some of this will be cut,” Lynam said. He attended the Finance Committee’s meeting following the Selectmen’s session.
There are 48 warrant articles from the town and an additional 14 from the school district. Lynam said he will be asking Selectmen to sign the warrants for the annual and special Town Meetings on Tuesday, April 11 so the warrants can be published.
“We thought that, in looking quickly at our numbers, we would be in decent shape at least for funding budgets within the limit,” Lynam said. However on working on it and certifications from the Department of Revenue] in more detail over two days, the problem was discovered.
The cost of the school assessment brought the budget issue home, Lynam told Selectmen, adding the town will work with the School Department and other department heads to determine how to solve the shortfall.
Lynam said that those decisions will ultimately come down to how the town votes at the May 1 Town Meeting.
“Education is a very expensive process,” he said. “There’s no way around it. We know that because, despite our best efforts and keeping our budgets under control, we are sixth or seventh from the bottom in spending [for it]. As a result of that, we are depriving some of our children of the opportunities they should have in education.”
While Lynam said he does not believe there is a lot of room in the school district’s budget to cut without affecting programs, he also does not believe the town has been frivolous in its expenditures. The town lacks the ability to pass on costs to large commercial or corporate taxpayers as some surrounding towns do, he stressed.
“I never thought I’d hear myself saying this — we have a revenue problem,” Lynam said. “People are going to have to make a decision as to what kind of community we want to be.”
He said the only source of funding left for the kind of education and town services people expect is the taxpayer.
In other business, Police Chief Scott Benton and Fire Chief Timothy Grenno presented their monthly reports to the board.
Benton stressed the importance of parents’ adherence to the state’s Social Host Law, and responded to Brockton state Rep. Michelle DuBois’ Facebook posts regarding ICE raids said to be planned for that city on Tuesday, May 28, which included ways to “Fight Back” on an informational document she included.
Benton said he is not, as a rule a fan of zero-tolerance policies regarding kids, but makes an exception where the Social Host Law is concerned.
“That falls to adults,” he said. “You cannot, in any way, give up that responsibility.”
He also noted that the community’s involvement in the Whitman-Hanson WILL program and is distributing a flyer about the Social Host Law to local package stores.
Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski noted that while the town’s opioid overdose situation seems to be plateauing, the state has recorded 3,000 opioid overdose deaths in the past three years.
“When people who are in a leadership role in a community step forward and can actually speak to it … we’ve made a lot of inroads,” Benton said. “This didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not going to get fixed overnight.”
On the immigration issue, Benton said his department does not initiate action, but would cooperate with ICE if asked, and was critical of DuBois, without mentioning her name.
“That is not the way to accomplish anything,” Benton said. “My concern is public safety and the people in this community being safe. I can tell you we have no plans to call ICE and go looking for people.”
He said by advising people to fight back, the legislator was putting both alleged undocumented immigrants and public safety officers in danger.
Grenno reported on two recent life-saving calls on Linden Street and Plymouth Street, prompted by carbon monoxide alarms now required in all single family homes by state law.
Whitman Fire has also provided mutual aid to Rockland for two suspicious fires in the past week and a half, one when he was on duty that took from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on scene, and again for four hours Monday. Grenno said with Rockland’s ladder truck going out of service for six or seven months for refurbishing, the town’s fire chief will be requesting Whitman’s assistance on a more frequent basis.