SHIRLEY — With only three articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant Monday night, 70 registered voters polished off the lot in about 15 minutes, which Town Moderator Karen Ludington said might have set a record.
The Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen recommended favorable action on all three articles, which passed on voice votes by a clear majority, each with one nay.
All three items were budget-related and when the meeting wrapped at 7:30, the few citizens who showed up had helped the selectmen spend over $240,000 with almost no questions asked.
None of it was new money and the three cash transfers didn’t represent any extra cost to taxpayers.
“There’s no added tax impact on any of the three articles,” Town Administrator Mike McGovern said.
McGovern explained why the budget shifts were necessary.
For the first article, the issue was timing, he said. It called for a $9,687 transfer from the Ambulance Enteprise Fund’s retained earnings pocket to cover the town’s share of a matching grant for new Fire Department communications equipment.
When the grant came through, the budget had been set but the fund hadn’t yet been certified by the Department of Revenue, McGovern said.
Article 2 sought two separate transfers from the Stabilization Fund: $31,148 to cover a shortfall in the county retirement assessment and $40,000 to pay a consultant, Clifton Larson Allen, for financial services. The firm is providing needed assistance, preparing state reports, McGovern said.
Article 3 sought a single transfer of $159,897 from the Stabilization Fund, which now stands at $808,723 after all the transfers.
The story behind the final transfer was more complicated than the previous two.
Like the previous transfer, this one was a requirement, not a choice, McGovern said. It represents a lump sum “Ban” pay down. The acronym means Bond Anticipation Note. Basically, debt service on shortterm borrowing. When it came time to roll over those bans to a longterm loan, the bank balked.
The bank requires a “significant principal pay down” on those bans, he said, and would not issue a longterm loan until that requirement was met. For the past couple of years, those payments fell short, he said, basically covering only interest due rather than paying on the amount borrowed, the principal.
“Debt payment is a legal obligation,” McGovern pointed out, and there are “best practices” in which to do it. In the future, those best practices will be followed so this doesn’t happen again, he said.
In this case, things were not done by the book, apparently. Nothing shady, just short of the mark, McGovern told the selectmen at a previous meeting. The upshot is that Clifton Larson Allen was hired to straight out the town’s books, which after a rocky period of administrative turmoil and hefty staff turnover, were in disarray.
When the consultant’s audit is complete, the firm is expected to make a full report to the selectmen and it will be posted on the town website, McGovern said.