SHIRLEY -- Selectmen on Monday night finalized the Annual Town Meeting warrant they reviewed last week at a public hearing.
The hearing continued and closed this week, as Town Administrator Patrice Garvin presented an updated version of the warrant, with minor changes, a few missing pieces filled in and the omnibus budget attached.
The $11 million municipal budget Garvin recommends and which the selectmen support does not cover the ASRSD assessment, however, which Garvin said still stands at 8.5 percent over last year, versus the 4.88 percent increase built into the town budget.
Sketching the current budget picture earlier in the meeting, Garvin said total town revenue for fiscal 2015 went up $266,000, with state aid included and expenses were cut by 3.9 percent. But the school assessment calls for $450,000 more than last year, she said.
"That seems to be a problem," Selectman David Swain said. He noted that the school district is getting $97,000 more in Chapter 70 state education aid this year but has not made a move to reduce the assessment accordingly.
"The good news is the Nashoba Tech assessment went down," Garvin interjected.
But Swain said the ASRSD bill is unrealistic and way out of line with cost-of-living increases and the town's ability to pay. "You can't have an 8.5 percent budget increase," he said. "They need to face reality."
The board voted unanimously to recommend favorable action on most of the 19 warrant articles, save a few they held for further information.
Items they held off on included the Capital Plan, with a final version pending and a couple of proposed new zoning bylaws the Planning Board was to review Wednesday night
The Finance Committee is expected to conduct its final review of the warrant and vote its own recommendations this week, Garvin told the board.
In other business, selectmen voted unanimously to release a lien placed on a Fitchburg property owned by a former town employee who owes the town $22,000 for unpaid health insurance premiums.
The paperwork was filed too late, Garvin explained. With two other liens already placed on the property, the town could not expect to recoup enough on the delinquent bill to justify legal costs, she said.
"How did this fall through the cracks?" Chairman Kendra Dumont asked.
"We were left out of the loop" regarding the other liens and a scheduled auction, Garvin replied. "There wouldn't be much left."
Told that a payment plan had been drafted for the individual but not enforced, selectmen asked Garvin who was responsible for ensuring the plan was carried out. It was the treasurer's responsibility, she said.
Asked how to prevent such an issue in the future, Garvin cited new town financial policies. Now, an overdue health insurance bill with no attempt to pay would trigger a process, she said, dropping the person from the plan and ensuring that an unpaid bill could not continue to grow.