By Chris Lisinski
GROTON — All contracts that require approval from the Board of Selectmen will now go through a lawyer first.
Under the new rule, the town’s legal counsel will review all contracts that require approval from the selectmen, including personnel and large purchase contracts, before sending them to the board. The selectmen voted 4-0 Monday night to approve the rule. Selectman Stuart Schulman was absent.
This move comes several weeks after the board contentiously negotiated a contract with Town Manager Mark Haddad. At the end of that process, an apparent omission in Haddad’s document sparked further arguments.
Chairman Jack Petropoulos said the new policy is not “reactionary” to the incidents of the last few weeks, but conceded that they highlighted a way the board could better operate.
“I think that Mark’s contract called out a need,” he said. “When you find out mistakes were made, you plug them to make sure they don’t get made again.”
The board also set a definite location for the second night of Town Meeting on May 23: the Groton-Dunstable Performing Arts Center. Last week, selectmen voted to push that night back to six days after the May 17 town elections. That way, if the proposed tax override fails as a ballot measure at town elections, officials have enough time to rework the budget accordingly.
On the table is a $1.9 million increase in the tax levy limit that would help fund a $4 million increase in the school district’s budget. That override has dominated discussion in recent weeks, and Monday night followed that trend.
School Committee Chairman Jeff Kubick gave a presentation to the board and audience explaining why the district’s budget calls for such an increase.
In recent years, state aid has remained flat as costs increased, so to keep budgets tight, the schools began making cuts. But now, with performance slipping, the district wants to address gaps and hire almost 40 full-time positions to restore amenities in the schools.
“The state stuff is absolutely flat, and the town has to make up the difference because the state (aid) is not growing along with the overall school spending,” Petropoulos said during Kubick’s presentation.
Selectman Peter Cunningham offered his support for the override-requiring school budget, while the other three selectmen present deferred their opinions until Town Meeting.
However, they all did say they understand and respect the district’s needs assessment, which recommended filling those gaps to improve test scores and amenities for students.
The board also voted to approve the final draft of the Town Meeting warrant. The article about the sister cities initiative was removed, but the rest will appear before voters at Town Meeting starting on April 25.