Override request now less likely to come before voters
By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – After a lengthy, spirited discussion during their April 23 meeting, the members of the Board of Selectmen backed away from approving a request to ask the voters for a Proposition 2-1/2 override this spring.
During the meeting, the board reviewed the latest figures for the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget and noted that overall, the news was good. Projected revenue had increased from Town Manager Daniel Morgado’s first estimate of $109.36 million to $111.31 million. The budget for the town’s schools came in at $51.38 million, still $1.1 million more than Morgado’s recommendation.
“The current model for supporting local government is no longer sustainable,” Board of Selectmen Chair Maurice DePalo said. He added that the current funding model was developed in the early 1980s, a time in which unfunded mandates were much smaller and revenue sharing was much higher.
Selectman James Kane, who has, at previous meetings, urged his fellow board members to place a Proposition 2- ½ override on the town ballot, withdrew his motion, which had not yet been seconded. Instead, he urged the board to use some of the town’s Free Cash to help reach the schools’ budget goals.
DePalo asked Morgado for details and the board learned that the previous estimate of $3.9 million in Free Cash had increased to $4.9 in the latest calculations. The board then agreed that half of that cash be used to close the school budget gap, along with some of the increase in the latest estimate in operating revenues. While the rest of the operating budget came in generally flat from the year before, the school budget is the only one to have grown substantially. Morgado did note that using Free Cash for the schools meant the town was moving backwards in its desire to have that account be approximately 5 percent of the town’s total budget.
DePalo restated that having more teachers was more important to him than having more Free Cash. Selectman Henry Fitzgerald said he felt that the need for an override was just as important as it had been the last time the board met. Selectman John Lebeaux replied that, while with this latest iteration of the FY 2014 budget, the town looked to be in better shape than it did in January, it is still not where it wants to be, and that lowering the amount of Free Cash for the schools’ needs would make the town look less strong financially – something to be avoided the next time the town wanted to finance a bond. Also, he noted, decreasing Free Cash would starve other town projects such as road and highway improvements. Selectman Moira Miller said she was looking for “civility” in the school funding discussion and suggested that the board take a mid-year review of finances.
The board agreed that there was not enough support for an override request for this year. The budget will next go to the Finance Committee for review.
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