Budgeting, warrant articles and failed votes: Highlights of the select board’s warrant Q&A session

|Debra Smith|

About twenty community members logged in to the zoom Q&A session the select board hosted on April 26th.

Voting will take place on June 8th by paper ballot, as there will be no town meeting this year due to Covid restrictions.

Questions about budget increases from year to year, departments not spending down their budgets, and how remaining balances are handled were voiced by Alan Gregory. He wondered, “if we can’t spend it, why are we allocating more?” for those accounts. “It appears that we annually turn back about $200,000 to the undesignated fund.” Lori Ann Wilson, the town’s finance director, explained that the amount varies from year to year, and concurred that the $250,000 budgeted last year from the undesignated fund won’t be needed. She noted that she anticipated that department budgets would be spent by the end of the year, and revenues were higher than anticipated for excise taxes and state revenue sharing. Gregory suggested that if the budgeted amounts were spent every year, the town would be better off in the long run. With over $3 million now in the undesignated fund and annual remaining balances going into that fund, people are being taxed for dollars that are not being used, Gregory said.

Failed votes
Others wanted to know what happens if an article fails, as was the case this past year with the library, which went back to voters twice. Chair Karen Gilles explained that in that case, the existing budget is in effect and the board has 60 days to bring back a new budget to the voters. Pat Vampatella wondered if 60 days is long enough for that process; perhaps 90 days is more realistic. Board member Tammy Donovan suggested that it would be possible to add another article to the next warrant to extend a failed article for longer than 60 days. Gilles commented that meetings like this are helpful to our planning, “otherwise, we don’t know what you want.”

Grouping of warrant
Rachel Spencer-Reed asked about the grouping of items on the warrant. Gilles responded that this is how they have been grouped historically, though last year they were broken down further. Steve Hathorne noted that the library and parks & recreation are grouped together on the warrant, so “if one fails, they both fail.”

For more details, watch the video on the town website.