SHIRLEY — When he ran for selectman three years ago, David Swain promised to be “the voice of reason.” He won, ousting incumbent Enrico Cappucci.
Asked about the slogan during a recent interview, Swain indicated that campaign promise had been fulfilled and is ongoing, with no need to repeat it now. “I still have the signs,” he said. But he won’t put them up. He’s running unopposed.
“I think the board has moderated over the years,” Swain explained. “We seem to work pretty well together.” Still, diversity of opinion is key to a balanced board.
“You can’t expect any three people to agree on everything, nor should they,” he said. Instead, members “bring different views to the table, have reasonable discussions and come to decisions … in the best interests of the town,” Swain said. “I try to do that.”
He also aims to avoid extremes and keep up the work in progress. “We need to sit down as a board and work together,” Swain continued, and they have. For example, with Town Hall in turmoil after the former town administrator was fired, one goal the board had to work toward was “to restore employee confidence … in coming to work,” he said.
Having served on the Finance Committee for several years, Swain has a bead on town finances and he thinks things are looking up. “We’re on somewhat firmer financial ground,” he said, recalling the one-time $2 million deficit that resulted in drastic budget cuts. In contrast, the shortfall is down to about $680,000 now, with enough in the free cash account to help fill in the gap with less upset. “We made it through the last year without significant cuts,” he said.
Sustainable planning is crucial going forward, Swain went on, citing approval of the Energy Committee’s payments in lieu of taxes deal with a developer, which will bring in revenue from solar farms built on town land.
Speaking of future funding, Swain also cited an $180,000 hike in property tax income and $30,000 in new growth. “We can’t count it yet, but it’s significant,” he said. Overall, he anticipates the town following trends across the state and the nation. “The economy is improving some. … The picture looks somewhat better,” he commented, with the state reaping about $500 million more than its projected revenue. “That’s real cash,” he said.
He predicted a supplemental state budget hearing to recalibrate, based on the added dollars, perhaps rescinding the governor’s 9-C cuts. Speaking locally, the state windfall might be cause to re-establish a direct conduit for the town to receive its promised MCI funding (mitigation for hosting a state prison), which was apparently waylaid by the Department of Corrections this year. “We’re working with legislation,” on that issue, Swain said, pushing for the MCI funding to be a separate, state budget line item, outside the DOC pass-through.
If those efforts are successful, the town could get the money — about $90,000 or so — before June 30, Swain said.
Being a selectman is a job as much as it is a public service calling, albeit nearly unpaid and if not full-time, then close to it. Swain didn’t disagree. “I call it my second 40-hour a week job,” he said.