A look at the Town Meeting agendaTown Meeting convenes April 24
From combining town services to adopting school and municipal budgets stretched to the breaking point by rising costs, Spring Town Meeting voters will be asked to weigh in on many important issues on April 24. In total, there are 34 items on the docket. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters may participate.
For a preview of some of the issues, see below.
School and town budgets
After a challenging budget season that saw school officials reduce their initial proposal by a little more than $1 million, district and town leaders are now on the same page, dollar wise. When the budget process began, tensions over what school officials requested and what the town could afford led to strained relations and rumblings that an effort to approve the school’s initial request, despite objections from town leaders, was underway.
Earlier this month, the school district’s Business Administrator Michael MacMillan unveiled a new proposal that was $1.1 million less, putting that question to rest.
The cuts close the gap between what school officials originally requested and what the town can afford to pay. Those reductions amount to a $1,102,811 decrease, bringing the new budget proposal to $28.2 million. If approved, that figure marks an increase of 1.1 percent from this year.
“This budget has not been arrived at easily,” MacMillan told committee members. “It’s something we worked very closely on with the town.”
On the town side, a balanced budget means operating at a level below what was provided for in fiscal year 2017, which will end July 1, 2017.
Town Administrator Derek Sullivan estimated the town budget would be approximately $62 million.
To balance the budget, Sullivan said that $226,307 had to be cut from the town and school budgets. Broken down, that means on the town side the budget must be $75,668 less than the fiscal year 2017 budget and the school budget must be $150,639 less. Since Wareham’s fiscal year runs from July to July, Fiscal Year 2018 will run from July of 2017 to July of 2018.
Originally, the town and school drafted budgets that requested $378,701 and $2 million increases, respectively.
According to Sullivan, the cuts are required to address increasing health insurance costs and state assessments. In particular, health insurance costs will rise by $1.6 million compared to the previous fiscal year.
Natural Resources Department
In an effort to streamline how to the town manages open space, a proposal will be before voters to create a Natural Resources Department.
The move would bring the town’s Animal Control officer under the direction of the Harbormaster’s Department and train all harbormaster employees to be certified animal control officers in their own right.
Harbormaster Garry Buckminster said that would expand animal control coverage from the current four days a week to seven, while providing evening coverage.
“We’re looking to consolidate services so residents get the biggest bang for their buck,” said Buckminster.
In addition to the animal control duties, the department would take a bigger role in managing and patrolling town-owned open space.
Illegal dumping, trespassers and other problems have been an issue in recent years, said Buckminster. By moving enforcement matters to the Natural Resources Department Wareham Police will have more time to handle more pressing issues.
Buckminster said the Wareham’s proposed Natural Resource Department is modeled after a similar, successful program in Yarmouth.
Community Preservation requests
Voters will be asked to approve projects that all together cost over $300,000 using Community Preservation Act Funds. The largest is a $142,750 request to make repairs to the Wesley United Methodist Church. Funds for a playgrounds upgrades, land purchases and affordable housing are also on the agenda.
See below to download the Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting warrants, scheduled for 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively.