With no debate, Town Meeting voters approve $62.2 million budget

Apr 24, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen members sit on stage at the Wareham High School auditorium during Monday's Town Meeting.

Voters at the Spring Annual Town Meeting had nothing to say before approving the town’s $62.2 million operating budget for fiscal year 2018. The vote came after attendees heard dismal reports on town finances from officials.

Over the course of two hours, voters approved 33 items on the agendas for the Annual and Special Town Meetings, opting to pass over just one article, which had become unnecessary due to a last minute change to another article related to how the town repairs roads.

On the budget, there was no discussion on any of the line items before the vote.

The new budget marks a 4.2 percent increase over the previous fiscal year’s, which had been $59,666,894.

Before the vote, town officials lamented the final budget, saying municipal services were suffering due to a lack of funds.

“We wish we had more,” said Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum. “We don’t.”

Finance Committee Chair David Heard echoed that sentiment.

“The Finance Committee continues to be concerned that the costs of running the town will outstrip Wareham’s ability to pay,” he said.

Heard warned residents that their tax burden may increase in coming years, saying that expensive capital projects, such as a new elementary school, may require voters to approve a Proposition 2 1/2 override.

“Looking forward, there are no magic bullets,” said Heard.

While Town Administrator Derek Sullivan agreed, he added that many have banded together to bring about positive changes, particularly when it comes to one group dedicated to beautifying the town and library boosters, despite the gloomy financial forecast.

“We struggle to maintain services,” Sullivan said, noting that police staffing levels are lower now than what they were in 1990 as one example. “It’s understandable this can lead to frustration.”

Sullivan went on to say the efforts of the all-volunteer group Don’t Trash Wareham, the Onset Bay Association’s fireworks fundraising campaign and the hiring of a Council on Aging director and library director through a grant and fundraising, respectively, should be applauded.

“It’s heartening to see volunteerism making Wareham an even better community,” said Sullivan.

For the town, the single largest line item by far is the $28.3 million school operating budget. In the months leading up to Monday’s vote, there was tension between town and school officials over the figure. Town leaders balked at the school’s initial budget request, saying it was far too high.

After considerable back and forth, school officials returned with a $28.3 million budget, which marked a $1 million decrease from their initial proposal.

While there was no debate on the Wareham School District’s budget, there was brief discussion on approving $3.1 million for Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.

Upper Cape Superintendent Bob Dutch said the figure marked a 2.4 percent increase compared to last year. The Wareham Public Schools budget increased 1.5 percent compared to the previous year, which concerned resident Missy Decas.

“I question why this never comes up as a discussion,” said Decas. “We hand [Upper Cape] what they want every year…It saddens me to stand here and fight for our students every year.”

In order for Wareham officials to reduce the proposed budget, cuts to transportation, staff and supplies were needed.

In addition to the budget, voters also approved several other large expenditures and transfers. Below is an overview of some of those votes.

An $80,000 transfer of funds from Receipts Reserved for Appropriation Parking at Onset Pier Account to fund the Onset parking program.

A $14,050 transfer from the Harbor Services Permits Receipts to the Harbormaster’s Maintenance and Improvements account. The request will allow the Harbormaster Department to buy and update law enforcement equipment such as radios, firearms, personnel gear and computer equipment.

A $6,385,574 appropriation from the Water Pollution Control Enterprise Fund to offset the cost of capital expenses at the Water Pollution Control Facility.

Authorization of paying $1,244,746 from the town’s general account to pay salaries for the Emergency Medical Services department and paying $365,988 from the town’s general account to the Emergency Medical Services general account.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.