By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury’s elected Town Meeting finally assembled on Aug. 8, under a tent, on the front lawn of Oak Middle School. Originally scheduled for May 18, it had been tentatively scheduled and then rescheduled three times. But on the warm morning that it was finally held, 41 warrant articles were voted on in a mere four hours.
Officials had prepared video presentations in advance of the meeting for members to preview. Some articles were bundled in a “consent agenda” format and financial matters including the operating budget was near the beginning of the meeting.
Without much discussion, the $125,200,201operational budget (school and municipal) easily passed. Town Meeting also authorized the following: SELCO to borrow $15 million for a fiber to the home project; a $1 million capital budget; a slate of zoning bylaws to create a Town Center District; disposition of the Beal School and land to be put up for sale and authorizing a citizen petition to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot to adopt the Community Preservation Act.
Town Manager Kevin Mizikar prefaced Article 2 (operational budget) with news that there were not a lot of changes this year but the town faced a lot of revenue challenges because of the pandemic.
“The proposed operating budget is just .85 percent greater than the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budgets…certainly on the town side are level FTEs, no additional FTEs are being proposed and in some situations a reduction in FTEs is required in order to make it through these challenging times,” he said.
Sandra Fryc, chair of the School Committee, shared that the school department’s FY2021 financial status experienced numerous changes because of a number of variables. After their July 22 vote their estimated budget gap was $2 million.
She explained that the Baker-Polito Administration and the legislature reached an agreement to maintain unrestricted local aid and Chapter 70 funding at FY2020 levels. This additional funding lowered the gap to $1,087,413.
After working with their union groups, Fryc noted, “I am pleased to announce that yesterday the Shrewsbury Education Association – who represent the school district’s largest employee group- voted to approve an agreement between the SEA and the School Committee that will reduce the estimated budget gap by $1,046,455.”
SELCO’s new general manager Christopher Roy was on hand to answer questions relative to Article 18 which authorized them to move forward with a multi-year fiber to the home project.
William Barry, Precinct 3 asked if they could speed up the installation time frame in light of COVID-19.
“There are reality limitations to a more rapid deployment, largely based on the number of contract crews available to do the work at such a large scale,” Roy replied.
To view Town Meeting in its entirety visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66XUo5cWYGU.