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Shirley wraps Town Meeting; War Memorial article withdrawn


SHIRLEY — The 2013 Annual Town Meeting was the town’s 260th, according to Moderator George Knittel, who dated its inception to the establishment of the town in 1753.

Historic or not, it wrapped UP in a single night, adjourning about 10:30 p.m.

Only 99 of the town’s 4,000 registered voters attended, but Knittel said it shows the folks who stayed home have faith in their town government and the people who came to do its “important business. I’m not disappointed, thank you for being here.”

With 21 articles on the warrant, all but one passed and that was withdrawn at the request of its sponsor, War Memorial Building trustees. They were asking for $8,000 to run the building but opted to rethink their strategy, instead looking for other funding sources while updating expense projections, Chairman Theresa Richards said.

But the trustees got a unanimous nod on a later request to repurpose $29,000 the town borrowed and Town Meeting appropriated in 2002 for the War Memorial Building to have the kitchen and downstairs bathroom renovated.

Those jobs were bigger than anticipated, however, and the work wasn’t done. Now, it’s been determined that there are other, more pressing needs on which the unexpended funds could be better spent, Richards said. With a list in hand of the proposed projects the trustees plan to use the money for, the selectmen and Finance Committee supported the article, which passed unanimously.

All of the other articles passed, including the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District Assessment, which was approved at $350,000, the recommended amount set by the Finance Committee and the selectmen, versus $550,000 originally requested.

Superintendent Carl Mock, after a brief presentation, amended the higher request in favor of the recommended amount. He added, however, the lower amount may not be enough.

At its Town Meeting last week, Ayer — the other member community — rejected its assessment at the School Committee’s request, and with the House and Senate budgets still pending, some factors contributing to the assessments have yet to be finalized, Mock explained. Notably, the state’s required local contribution formula, which in the governor’s budget hit Shirley particularly hard.

But the governor’s budget won’t fly, Mock continued, and the new state budget is likely to present quite a different picture, leaving little doubt that Ayer’s initial assessment was too low, he said, and that Shirley’s was too high. But it’s unclear right now what the adjusted new figures will be.

Article 6, the town’s $11.5 million omnibus budget also passed, with some amounts amended up and $28,503 of the total amount subject to a Proposition 2 1/2 tax override.

One of a handful of capital expenses that Town Meeting approved was also made contingent on a later ballot vote: a $160,000 dump truck to replace one that’s been inoperable for three years. The expenditure hinges on passage of a Capital Exclusion under the Proposition 1/2 law and would add about $73 to the average annual tax bill for a single year if it passes.

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