By Pierre Comtois
TOWNSEND -- Looking ahead to annual Town Meeting, selectmen Tuesday reviewed a draft warrant with 28 articles covering everything from making up a deficit in the snow and ice account to the purchase of land for a new Central fire-station headquarters.
Topping the warrant articles was the proposed town-operating budget for fiscal 2015.
At $18,460,884, the proposed budget will exceed that of fiscal 2014 by about $800,000.
According to Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan, the amount will leave about $17,895 in the levy limit, the total the town can collect in property taxes as set by the state.
The increase in spending over 2014 was kept to a minimum, said Sheehan.
"We had some good news on our health-insurance rates," Sheehan said.
Sheehan said expectations were that insurance rates for the town would rise between 8 percent and 10 percent in the coming year but, the increase came in only at 2 percent.
"A 2 percent drop is pretty significant for us," said Sheehan, adding that the low rates would translate to $105,000 in savings for Townsend.
"We're in good shape," Sheehan said.
Not so good was a proposed capital-spending plan for 2015 totaling $385,135.
The plan elicited a disagreement between board members Susan Lisio and Carolyn Smart, who sparred over the definition of the plan.
Lisio said she thought that because the plan listed spending over more than a year, it represented a multi-year plan for the future.
But Smart said it was not and refused to recommend it to Town Meeting as is. She asked that it be reviewed, the spending items prioritized and formal recommendations made beforehand.
Lisio said that at a previous Capital Planning Committee meeting held previously, it had been her understanding that everyone agreed that it would be a good idea to bundle all spending items in a single borrowing measure.
Member Colin McNabb said that was his interpretation.
But Smart said such low-cost items as carpeting and an electronic sign should not even be included in a borrowing measure.
"I think we shouldn't be talking about why we can't do things but why we can do things," said Sheehan in support of the capital plan.
"This is good financial planning," said Lisio of bundling all of the items in a single borrowing measure. "I don't want to sacrifice the whole thing for just one item."
The capital plan passed, 2-1, with Smart in dissent.