TOWNSEND — Five days before town meeting, the Finance Committee continued to make recommendations for the warrant and budget.
Nearly all articles scheduled to be presented on May 3 involving money were recommended by the committee. They did make some recommendations for changes to the proposed budget during the April 28 meeting.
The committee was divided on recommending funding for a new town website. The MIS budget request for $6,000 to update the town’s website was not recommended by the committee at their last meeting.
As part of the cable-service agreement, the town receives money from Comcast each year which is used to offset technology expenses. The committee recommended taking $30,000 from the account rather than $26,000 as requested in the selectmen’s budget.
“Would this take care of our new website?” committee member Carolyn Sellars asked. “The Comcast money can only be used for certain things,” she said.
Other members were reluctant to spend the money on a new website. The upfront costs would not be the only expense. An annual cost for maintaining the site would be incurred as well, chairman Paul Nicoli said.
Money should not be spent on outside services at this time because town employees are not receiving a salary increase, Nicoli said. If money from Comcast was used to pay more of the MIS budget, more money from the general fund would be available for employee raises.
The committee did not change its recommendation to not fund a new website. The budget could still be adjusted at the May 3 town meeting. “I think the selectmen strongly support the website,” Andy Sheehan, town administrator, said.
The committee did not recommend $1,575 for stipends for members of the Board of Assessors. The stipend amount last year was $3.
A request from the Water Department for raises was not recommended at a previous meeting.
The $411,050 capital-planning request included a police cruiser, replacing the roof and HVAC system at the police station, a new ambulance, an air bottle-filling station and chief’s vehicle for the Fire Department, repainting and re-glazing the windows at Town Hall, and three vehicles for the Highway Department — an F450 pickup, a six-wheel dump truck with a sander body and asphalt hot box, and a superintendent’s vehicle.
The committee recommended acknowledging $52,500 for a police cruiser as a capital expense, but moved the expense to the police department budget since it is a recurring item.
There was some good news in the budget numbers.
The trash pickup budget was reduced from $675,952 to $650,00 and could go lower, Sheehan said.
Nicoli recommended staying at the $650,000 level since many houses in town are vacant and when they are cleaned out there could be an uptick in trash tonnage.
There are no out-of-district tuitions this year, which helps to lower education costs and Sheehan said he was able to cut $2,500 from street lights.
The Finance Committee did not give an opinion on a request for $3,500 from the Emergency Management Department. They would like more information before making a recommendation. The Emergency Management coordinator has been out of town and has not met with the committee about the request.