SHIRLEY -- On the first night of Annual Town Meeting, set to continue next week, a few presentations took up a substantial slice of the four-hour session.

First, Town Moderator Enrico Cappucci spelled out the rules.

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin explained the new Omnibus Budget presentation process.

John Oelfke challenged Garvin's assurance that the new process - voting on totals for each "function" category before voting on the overall budget - didn't put line items at risk of being repurposed later.

"You said money can't be moved between departments," he said. "Is that for legal or moral reasons?"

"Each line item, by department, will be funded as a separate appropriation," Garvin replied. She didn't add that, once appropriated by Town Meeting, it takes another vote of the people to reallocate money, except during the last two months of the fiscal year, when selectmen can legally make line item transfers.

Board of Assessors Vice Chairman Ron Marchetti explained the tax levy and how the tax rate is set by the DOR deadline each year, sketched the assessors mission, historically and as a vision for the future and itemized work in progress toward stated goals.

Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee Chairman Joyce Reischutz introduced one of the architects working on the high school renovation project, now about half way through it's phased-in process and on track to be completed next summer.


Backed by a short slide presentation that showed the exterior and interior of the building, as it is and as it will be, the architect said the academic wing should be ready to receive students when school starts this year.

Finance Committee Chairman Mike Swanton presented an overview of town finances.

By comparison, the fist three articles on the 17-item warrant looked like standards that should pass muster without much ado.

At 8:30, an hour and 15 minutes after the meeting convened, motions on the first two warrant articles easily passed, accepting the Annual Town Report and appropriating "supplemental funds" to cover shortfalls from last year.

The bump in the road came with Article 3, which was split into two motions and called for accepting the Salary Classification Plan and FY2015 Wage Scale prepared by the Personnel Board and previously presented to the selectmen, who co-sponsored the article.

John Oelfke pointed out a missing piece in the wage and salary scale. When the consultant hired to analyze the set-up met with department heads last year, he was COA director and was told that MART drivers and dispatchers would be placed on the grid. But they were not, he said.

Library Trustee Beth Quinty also lodged a complaint. Their concern was the Library Director's position, which in their estimation should be higher up on the grid.

Personnel Board member Holly Haase said the document as presented was subject to changes. "It's not a finished project," she said. "We're working on it."

Garvin said the holdup was a problem with the consulting firm, which is now working with Town Counsel. "We haven't got the study" the town contracted for, she said, adding that it should be ready for the fall Town Meeting.

But Oelfke pointed out that the two-percent increase built into the new pay scale is set to implement July 1, with those issues unresolved, so positions left out would not get raises.

Garvin said the selectmen could deal with that later.

Quinty suggested tabling the article until fall.

But Garvin said it couldn't wait. Asked why, she said the building inspector's job title had changed to include added oversight duties as facilities manager with responsibility for assigning custodial duties among town buildings. It's key to make that change now, she said.

Asked what would happen if the motion failed, Garvin said everybody would stay where they are now on the scale and the building inspector's job title would not change.