Select Board Ponders Multiple Overrides
By Connie Sartini
Town Manager Mark Haddad advised the Select Board that that the current FY2020 budget has been impacted by an increase of $278,000 from the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee and from the proposal for the addition of two Firefighter/EMTs. He added that there is a potential to reduce the funds carried for Snow and Ice Removal by $150,000 noting that this is a major shift for how this is normally budgeted. This would lower the deficit to $128,000.
There are two options to address the deficit: one is through an override, and the other is making cuts in town services, Haddad said.
Four members of the Select Board – Josh Degen, Alison Manugian, John Giger and Chairman Barry Pease were in full support of adding two new Firefighter/EMTs to the FY2020 budget. Member Becky Pine said she was concerned that the town might face a need for two more next year and two more the following year and suggested that the request for hiring the two Firefighter/EMTs come back for action next year.
Select Board member John Giger said he would “not like to see an override. I’d like to avoid a train wreck. For me this issue is important. I still support giving the voters a choice. This should be driven by the people who pay the bills.”
Chairman Pease pointed out that at the end of the day, the Finance Committee can say this can’t fit in the budget, but the Select Board makes the decision on whether or not to call for an override.
Haddad added that the FY2021 budget will be a problem for the schools and the municipal side. “Maybe this decision should stand alone for a total cost of $117,000, and don’t reduce the call incentive pay.” He added that there will be two Fire Department budgets voted on at Spring Town Meeting – one including the two new firefighter/EMTs and one without.
Selectman Josh Degen stressed that the five-year projections reflect a $200,000 override every year. In addition, he pointed out that there will already be two debt exclusions on the Spring Town Meeting warrant and election ballot - one for the $4M for the DPW garages and the second of over $1M for replacing the Library roof.
He said, “It’s a bad idea to have an override for firefighters.” He suggested that the schools use some of their Excess and Deficiency (Free Cash) to cover this year’s costs.
The Select Board will meet again with the Finance Committee on Monday, March 18 at 7:15 p.m. to continue the discussion on the budget and possible overrides.