The Sun reported earlier this week that a group of town residents joined together to propose a number of town meeting articles, following the loss of the override in the election on the 9th.
These three articles attempt changes in three areas. The first is a call to “advise” the town leadership to propose another debt exclusion to fund a tech upgrade for the entire town, the amount to be in the range of one to one and a half million.
It seems to me that this is a little vague, in that the school upgrade has ranged from about $600,000 to $850,000 in a matter of months, and nobody has even determined the need on the municipal side (being that there are also a number of buildings to consider.. from the new town hall, to the Department of Public Works, the Library, the Police Station, a number of fire stations, the lakeside beach, two major and a number of minor parks).
I like this discussion, but would prefer to see a study done and presentation made as to what we can get and for what amounts. WIFI should be available at the library and parks, and probably in the recreation areas around the schools.
A second article for $100,000 for school supplies, I could favor at this time. Note that the schools did not list supplies as their major need, but support staff. On the other hand, we would need to come up with a funding source. Raiding the free cash could easily raise the cost of the high school or other projects in terms of interest rates on future bonds… costing us much more than the $100,000.
If the manager, be it Piendak or the new incoming manager, could target funds from some other department that could be used for this, I may vote for it. But, this would mean services from somewhere else might be reduced to provide for this. Would the townspeople give up recreation programs, hours at the library, or elderly services to fund education supplies?
As to the third article, I don’t think this one will do much. As Tom indicated earlier, the town bylaw already has enough exemptions in it that these changes would make no difference. Almost all of our employees are covered by negotiated contracts, and these changes regarding sick time and longevity accumulation would probably be declared as unfair labor practices.
I think the leaders of the town have been put on notice to take these issues into consideration on future contracts, and we as taxpayers will demand to know the terms of contracts upon their acceptance. This in itself will reduce those costs.
Just this week, the information presented in the Sun that the Town Manager in Billerica was having one year of pay as severance put into his contract will most assuredly cause a reaction that should bring that down… if the Billerica Selectmen know what’s good for them.
Last Saturday Morning, Selectman John Zimini joined us on 980 WCAP to discuss these articles. I’ve included that audio here.