By Keith Regan, Community Reporter
Westborough–With Town Meeting set to weigh in on the town’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget Saturday, March 14, the Board of Selectmen remain at odds with the Advisory Finance Committee (AFC) over some details of the spending plan.
At issue is the use of free cash to replenish the town’s reserve account as well as the amount of clerical support the Historical Commission should receive each month.
Selectmen did back the AFC’s move to use about $430,000 in free cash to cover the town’s snow and ice budget deficit for the current fiscal year. Selectman Ian Johnson noted that the winter has been unusual and unlikely to recur and pointed out that federal relief funds may yet be realized to help cover some of those costs.
But the AFC decision to pull another $250,000 from free cash to fund the reserve account in FY 2016 drew the board’s ire, as did its decision to override the board and Town Manager Jim Malloy’s recommendations to continue funding the Historical Commission’s administrative support at existing levels. Malloy has recommended reducing the support in each of the past two budgets.
For FY 2016, Malloy proposed just over $3,000 in spending on salaries for the commission, compared to a request of $12,000, the number the AFC supports.
“I find myself continually shaking my head at the decisions of this committee,” Selectmen Chair George Barrette said, noting that the decision to back the commission’s budget came on a 4-3-2 vote.
Town Meeting will resolve the disputes when it takes up the $89 million budget as part of a 27-article warrant.
“When I came here, we made a decision we should not be funding operating budgets with reserves,” Malloy said. “We should design budgets so current revenues supporting current expenditures. This represents a move backwards.”
Malloy’s plan had the $250,000 reserve funded through taxation, representing about $30 in taxes on the average single family home. Selectmen voted to support that option.
In other business, Selectmen reorganized following the March 3 uncontested election. Barrette, who was elected to another three-year term, was again named chair, while Denzil Drewry, who was also given another term in the election, will be vice chair.
The board also welcomed Lydia Goldblatt back to the table. Goldblatt was elected to serve out the final year on the term of former Selectman Leigh Emery, who resigned last fall over concerns about her receiving multiple pensions from her roles as a teacher and a selectman.
The Annual Town Meeting will start at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 13 at the Westborough High School, 90 West Main St.