A boost in free cash
HANSON — When voters meet in special Town Meeting Monday, there will be more free cash than previously forecast available to fund some of the 42 articles on the published warrant.
Available free cash amounts to $1,446,878 — for this year, anyway.
One of the articles where that free cash spike will help concerns roof replacement costs for the slate roof section at Indian Head Elementary School. The town will now seek a vote at special Town Meeting that $170,000 come from free cash and the remaining $680,000 be funded by a one-year capital exclusion to Propostion 2 1/2.
Town Administrator Ron San Angelo announced during the Tuesday, Sept. 30 Selectmen’s meeting that free cash numbers are “significantly higher as a result of a lot of hard work from varous department heads.”
Town Moderator Sean Kealy suggested San Angelo produce a flyer outlining the free cash situation for voters at the Special Town Meeting, which convenes at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 6 at Hanson Middle School Auditorium. San Angelo said he plans to make a presentation about the free cash situation at the start of the meeting.
The town usually enters October’s special Town Meeting with between $600,000 to $800,000 available in the free cash line.
San Angelo said the higher free cash amount is not due to taxes being increased too much, but rather to stepped up efforts to collect back taxes owed to the town.
“One of the main reasons … is the great deal of work done between my office, the treasurer-collector’s office and all the land use and health departments collecting back taxes,” he said. “I wish we had this every year [to work with], but this is sort of a nice, one-year bonus for us. … A lot of it was from one large development a lot of people worked hard on.”
About $398,000 was from back tax collections and another $104,00 was from interest on the back taxes. A rise in the number of inspection permits has also helped as have savings on insurance.
San Angelo also credited Assessor Lee Gamache with her work on a new method of doing supplemental taxes over the past few years. As a new development project, such as condominiums, is constructed the assessed value increases with progress on the project, he explained. The result of that work has been an additional $86,000 in free cash.
“That’s taxable revenue on that improvement,” San Angelo said. “Our assessor has been working hard to collect those supplemental revenues to make sure we get that growth as it occurs.”
When the school roof articles are reached at Town Meeting, an article to repair the slate roof at Indian Head School will be passed over in favor of one to replace it on the recommendation of the Schools Repair Priority Committee. Selectman Bruce Young, who chairs that committee said the move will be fully explained to voters at the special Town Meeting.
The $170,000 from free cash, if approved, would permit the roof project to begin before any ballot vote on a capital exclusion takes place — most likely on the design phase and formulation of bid documents.
A vote at Town Meeting to send a capital exclusion to the ballot requires a simple majority because it is not a debt exclusion funded by town borrowing, which would need a two-thirds vote. Debt exclusions funded via borrowing by the regional school district, as would have been the case for a new school, also requires a simple majority at Town Meeting.
Resident Joseph O’Sullivan asked if any funding for the roof prooject from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in involved. Repair Committee members present stressed that MSBA’s accellerated repair funds would be available if the problem was limited to the roof. Any other problems in need of repair disqualifies a school from consideration.
In other business, Selectmen again continued a public hearing on a gravel removal permit sought by the Great Cedar Cattle Feeders Inc., of Halifax at bogs they own at Richardson Street and Pierce Avenue until an Oct. 21 meeting. The continuance is aimed at providing time for the farm and bog abutters to work out conditions under which the operation would be acceptable to both sides.