Select Board Budget and Energy/Sustainability Manager set for FinCom Review, Thursday, Feb 10

February 9, 2022

The Finance Committee (FinCom) is scheduled to review details of the proposed fiscal 2023 municipal budget Thursday, Feb. 10, with only one headliner: an energy and sustainability manager. The virtual meeting begins at 7 p.m.

The new $75,000-a-year position is the only item in the budget crafted by Town Manager Sarah Stanton that exceeds FinCom’s 2.5 percent guideline for spending limit.

But it was enough to result in a 3-2 vote for the budget back on Jan. 31, as Select Board members Bill Moonan and Ed Pierce did not support the position. Pierce felt it is too costly and Moonan said there are higher priorities.

At this week’s virtual meeting Monday, Moonan tried again to separate the proposal from the budget and form a separate article, so the board could unanimously support the budget in presenting it to FinCom. But that also failed by a 3-2 margin.

Moonan acknowledged that “a large number of people think this is a great deal to do.” The citizens’ group Mothers Out Front has been leading a campaign for support of the new position for the better part of a year. Indeed, they prefer a department-head level position; the budgeted post would have a lower classification.

Moonan said the additional position would “involve increasing sums in the future, and may or may not be self-sustaining. If the town wants to tax itself it should be a decision made separate from our base budget, which meets the guideline.”

Select Board member Emily Mitchell said she also was not comfortable with the budget as voted – but because of what wasn’t included. “Part of our job is to prioritize those needs,” she said. Chair Margot Fleischman said she felt board members met at a “compromise point. I think we are five people with five different opinions about where the budget should have landed.”

The additional position results in a 2.91% increase for the departmental budget and members of the Finance Committee are still expected to put forth questions about many details even within the guideline.

Stanton Monday also reported on continuing efforts to fine-tune other budget lines, such as property and casualty insurance, health insurance, and principal and interest on bonded debt.

She said she hopes the Finance Committee chooses to renew allocations to the stabilization fund and the special fund to offset other post-employment benefits liability (OPEB) because rating agencies look favorably on such contributions.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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