SHIRLEY — The Finance Committee on Tuesday night comprised a quorum with five of its seven members present but agreed to hold off on taking a position on the four motions slated for the June 8 Special Town Meeting, all under the header of one warrant article.
The single article seeks to amend the fiscal 2016 operating budget to align with actions taken at Annual Town Meeting last month.
At some point, talk turned to the selectmen’s decision to launch a Proposition 2/1/2 tax override bid before the next Annual Town Meeting and the newly-minted Budget Coordinating Committee charged with assisting them in the process, with three FinCom members among the seven appointees.
“It occurs to me that Town Meeting doesn’t want to make drastic cut backs or dramatically change Shirley’s residential profile,” Mike Swanton said, referring to the recent Town Meeting in which every line item cut on the warrant was restored and a previous session earlier this year when voters rejected zoning changes aimed at enhancing future revenue.
In his view, the override option is the only one left. “I guess that’s a tacit OK to raise taxes,” Swanton said.
Rebecca Boucher disagreed. “I think the message was that Town Meeting wants to see a plan, not necessarily an override,” she said.
“So you either cut, raise revenue or raise taxes… I can’t think of a fourth thing, magic or otherwise,” Swanton countered.
Boucher said the solution might be a “combination” of the three.
“Maybe we can save with Regional Dispatch,” Chairman Stewart Cady ventured, citing a nascent plan to form a regional communication center with the neighboring town of Ayer, already Shirley’s partner in a two-town regional school district.
He also noted that the town might start to see a significant uptick in revenue from solar energy as more new facilities come on line and lease and tax agreements are finalized.
A big unknown, however, is the annual regional school assessments, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said. Specifically, whether percentage increases in the coming years will overreach the town’s projections, as they did this year.
Town Meeting rejected those assessments by voting for “recommended” amounts versus the requested amounts that were, in fact, the assessments, both of which will be presented again as part of the June 8 Special Town Meeting warrant.