GROTON — Voices were raised at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting Monday after one member accused the others of being “irresponsible” in choosing one of three budget scenarios for fiscal 2017 without what he called adequate consideration.
Making the accusation was Selectman Joshua Degen in a prepared statement in which he said he was “stunned, shocked, and disappointed to learn that Anna, Peter, and Stuart all determined that the carryover budget was the correct choice, even though they obviously had almost no time to study and analyze their budget choice on account of the fact that they only received it that day.
“How they could receive three different budgets and decide on one choice in less than a day, with extremely little study time or analysis is irresponsible and not what citizens expect of us.”
Degen had been absent the day the board came to its decision and returned on Monday to present his own suggestions for cuts in spending that could be added to the “carryover” budget presented to selectmen by Town Manager Mark Haddad.
But following Degen’s reading of his statement, fellow board members took exception to his remarks, calling them intemperate and unfair.
Haddad followed by explaining that he had been instructed to cut in places that would not sffect response times in emergencies and that the cuts he proposed, such as a school resource officer, would not jeopardize public safety.
In other areas, said Haddad, he was restricted by law from making other reductions.
Chairman Jack Petropoulos, defending Haddad’s choices for cuts as well as some of Degen’s, reminded his colleagues that the reductions were needed in order to fund a proposed override measure planned for the schools.
The override measure would be funded through whatever savings could be eked out from the town’s side of municipal spending so there would be no savings for taxpayers under any of the three scenarios proposed for fiscal ’17 by the town manager, including the carryover budget discussed at Monday’s meeting.
So no matter what was eventually decided, said Petropoulos, taxpayers were going to be “whacked” with an override.
Recognizing the off-balance nature of the budget discussion, Selectman Anna Eliot asked how the town could justify cutting employees or their work hours from the municipal side of the budget while asking for an override to pay for 40 plus new positions for the schools?
To which Degen raised his voice in opposition to the comparison, saying that the cuts he proposed were for positions that had not yet been filled and that education was very important.
In the end, no decision was made regarding Degen’s suggested cuts but recognition made that there would be other opportunities to discuss them in upcoming public hearings and meetings.
Also at their meeting Monday, selectmen reviewed a first draft of the warrant for spring Town Meeting scheduled for April 25.
Among the 31 articles that residents will be asked to consider are the fiscal 2017 budget, including municipal and school spending, and a measure covering such capital requests as a $35,000 swap loader for the Fire Department; a police/fire boat for the Police and Fire Departments; a $30,000 pickup truck and $45,000 brush mower for the DPW; $50,000 for computer equipment; $60,000 for updating alarm systems in all town buildings; $40,000 for a baler at the transfer station; $20,000 for new carpeting at the library; $46,500 for improvements to local parks; $89,746 to buy two new cruisers and $39,134 to pay for tasers both for the Police Department; and $20,000 for golf carts, $6,500 for a boom sprayer, and $5,100 to pay for a greens mower all for the Groton Country Club.
Funds will also be sought for a feasibility study for a new senior center; extension of the Groton center sewer system to 122 Old Ayer Road; the purchase of playground equipment for use at Cutler Field; repair of a retaining wall at the library; and to pay for membership in a “sister cities” program for high school students intended to raise students’ “global awareness.”
Voters at Town Meeting will also be asked to approve Community Preservation Fund money in the amounts of $55,489 to pay the salary of a housing coordinator; $150,000 to rehabilitate the Middle School track; $30,000 to restore historic mile markers; and $169,800 for upgrades to the former Prescott Elementary School building.
Some zoning measures will also be on the warrant, including a change in the length of time a dog must remain in the Groton town shelter from 10 days to 7 so that animals can be processed more quickly.
Residents will also be asked to direct selectmen to file for intervener status with the federal government on the town’s behalf so Groton can have a say if the route of a proposed gas pipeline switches from a more northerly track back to the Nashoba Valley area.
A public hearing on the warrant articles will be held March 21.
In other action, selectmen:
* Voted to appoint Kevin Brogan and Kevin Forsmo as members of the Sustainable Budget Committee along with School Committee representative Allison Manugian.
* Voted to appoint Marilyn Dabritz to fill a vacancy on the Board of Library Trustees.
* Voted to approve sending a letter to the state Legislature asking for its support in creating an alternative school funding formula to help ease fiscal planning between Groton and Dunstable regarding the Regional School District.