ASHBY — The best efforts of town officials to create a budget and finalize warrant articles for the May Town Meeting have been hampered by this season’s high cost of snow and ice removal.
The Highway Department needs roughly $90,000 more than it budgeted for winter expenses, Finance Committee Chairman Rebecca Walsh said at the April 2 Board of Selectmen meeting. The actual expenses could be higher, she said.
This figure is based on no more storms, she added.
“I don’t know how solid ($90,000) is,” she said. “I don’t know how solid ($95,000) is.”
Selectman Peter McMurray suggested taking funds from the Highway Department’s short-staffed payroll budget and available cash. Part of the reason expenses are so high is that the town paid contractors to do winter roadwork after two employees resigned, he said.
The selectmen also decided to remove an article requesting an override to fund a new position on the Highway Department.
However, the board decided it does need to increase the budget for legal expenses by $10,000 and reserve funds by $5,000.
The selectmen and Finance Committee agreed to these increases at a joint meeting, said town administrator Linda Sanders. Most of these funds can come from the unemployment insurance account, she said, since most of that money wasn’t spent this year. Some funds may be available from department budgets, she added.
“Most department heads are trying not spend anything,” she said. “The brakes are on, except for winter operations.”
In related news, the amount of an override to fund Memorial Day celebrations and band concerts has been decreased.
The town is only required to purchase flags for the holiday celebration, said Sanders, not flowers. The American Legion will also look for a volunteer band for the Fourth of July, she said.