HANSON — The town’s budget gap has been closed to within $278,572 — down from about $1 million a little over a month ago.
“With the cuts and sharpening of the pencils that we’ve done and [despite] the surprise of the schools that came out with a 5.5 percent assessment to the town on March 16, we brought our budget deficit down,” Town Administrator Lisa Green reported to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, April 5. “The school assessment came as a surprise, where the assessment that was forwarded to us on Feb. 16 was 4.1 percent.”
Green said the jump in the school assessment was not expected. After further budget computations, the bottom line came to within $278,572 or balance.
“We do continue to look for ways to cut any way we can without impacting personnel,” she said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Green said she is still hoping the school district will lower the assessment a little bit.
She also spoke with Whitman Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman, who has indicated that, if there is a change in the non-mandated busing formula, Whitman will be able to afford their 4.87 percent assessment within their levy.
She said that would put Hanson in a difficult position.
“If Whitman is saying that they can afford their assessment within the levy, there’s not going to be a lot of leverage and ground for us to ask the schools to lower their assessment,” she said.
Green had advised the school district that Hanson could afford no more than a 3.5 percent increase, and said 3.3 percent would work within the levy.
In speaking to district business manager John Stanbrook, Green reported he is not aware of any changes to any of the assessments at this time.
“Is there a way to reach out to Whitman, as a partner — and knowing, in part, why we are where we are — and ask if they will partner with us and ask them to lower the assessment,” Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “Just because they can afford it, doesn’t mean they necessarily want to put things on hold and want to pay all of that money, as well.”
She noted there have been past years when Whitman could not afford what they were assessed and Hanson successfully worked with them to work with the district to lower that assessment.
A week after closing the Town Meeting warrant the previous week, Selectmen voted on two articles one of which was inadvertently left off the warrant through a printing error and the other, which had been with town counsel for a clarification on wording and was returned after the warrant had closed.
One was a citizen’s petition about amending the town’s recall provision, including giving residents their own grounds for initiating recall, requiring 300 voter signatures on the requesting petition and must name the official being recalled, which is required to be on the warrant. The other would allow selectmen to enter into a lease for if an RFP was agreed to regarding the Lite Control building.
Selectmen voted to place both articles and to remove another one that would place a generator at the transfer station, but that had not originated with the Board of Health.
Another three capital articles had been previously withdrawn by the Highway Department after Green had instructed departments to pare down their budgets.
Selectmn signed the approved warrant.