By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Although the operating budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is still very much in flux, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar recommended at the May 26 Board of Selectmen meeting that the date for the Annual Town Meeting be set for June 29 at Shrewsbury High School, either in the Fieldhouse or outside on the grounds.
Even though the board agreed to that date almost a month ago, it didn’t seem likely then that it would take place.
Town Moderator Chris Mehne was also present at that meeting which was held via remote participation. As moderator, he can extend the date by 30-day increments according to Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020.
“In order for the statute permitting the moderator to recess or continue the Town Meeting date, there has to be a posted date initially set and a date and place set by the selectmen and we go from there,” Mehne explained.
Mizikar then shared that if the State of Emergency is still in place with public health restrictions, they aren’t compelled to have a Town Meeting, but the longer that they utilize the monthly budgeting approach then operational challenges will present themselves, particularly with the School Department at the start of the new school year.
The 41-article warrant was also reviewed and signed by the selectmen May 26.
Of the articles, 17 are deemed critical to town operations and have been organized accordingly at the front of the warrant should it become necessary to continue Town Meeting once it is in progress. Articles of lesser importance can be delayed.
Twenty articles pertain to finance, nine are bylaw amendments, six are land disposal/acquisition, four are miscellaneous and two fund outside entities.
On June 9, selectmen voted to authorize Mizikar to apply with the state through the Department of Revenue to institute the 1/12 budget approach for the month of July. As such, the recommended expenditures for July 2020 total $18,184,470 and include both general and all enterprise funds.
However, Mizikar cautioned that they should be solidifying the budget by late July. He can put the August budget in place, but, even without what he would desire from the state number-wise, an annual budget is needed for continuity and stability.
“We need to hold Town Meeting before the end of August, preferably by the middle of August to ensure that we are able to properly function before the beginning of the school year,” he said.
As for the likelihood that Town Meeting will happen on June 29, Mizikar stated: “At this point I see no way that Town Meeting will happen. From a Public Health perspective, it is still not safe to assemble such a large group indoors. We are reviewing all options for both rescheduling and how to logistically handle the meeting.”