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Town Meeting Members Spend $9.6 Million in 90 Minutes

Town Meeting Members sped through a 37-aticle Special Town Meeting warrant this past Monday night like a hot knife through butter, spending $9.6 million in just 90 minutes. There was little debate or questions asked on any article, with all but three passing unanimously – including $1.1 million for a new aerial ladder truck for the Fire Department.

Christopher Morin, Finance Committee chair, stated the town had $6.3 million in "free cash" and $5.9 million in excess levy capacity going into the meeting. "These are healthy numbers," he declared. The Finance Committee recommended spending $4.5 million of the free cash and appropriating $5.1 million of the excess levy. The result – which wraps up spending for the current fiscal year – leaves the town with $1.8 million in free cash and $3.2 million in excess levy capacity, Morin said.

"Free cash" is a municipal finance term that encompasses money appropriated for town departments' budgets but not completely spent, as well as local revenues from permits, fees and auto excise taxes coming in higher than originally anticipated. Excess levy capacity basically is an additional amount that could be spent under the structures of Proposition 2 ½, but the town chooses not to do so.

At last May's Annual Town Meeting, Morin reported, the Finance Committee outlined five main goals and had exceeded three of them:

• Giving $1.5 million in taxpayer relief – Town Meeting Members approved $2.4 million.

• Budgeting $1.5 million for capital items or projects – met.

• Keeping debt service payments at $3.5 million – this rose to $5.7 million due to debt payments for the new Woodland Elementary School.

• Keeping the operating budget increase to 2.5 percent – the actual increase was 4.9 percent, due to five percent increases in worker's compensation insurance, 5.5 percent increases in retirement spending and a 3.5 percent increase in funding for education.

• Saving $500,000 – this number was increased to $1.5 million.

"We're in a healthy financial position. The reason why is smart budgeting and smart spending," Morin said.

Among the items approved Monday night were:

• $250,000 in initial funding for an "Injured on Duty" fund for police officers and firefighters;

• $1.1 million for the new ladder truck;

• $200,000 to replace all fire doors at Stacy Middle School;

• $1 million allocated for the retirement fund to reduce annual payments into it;

• $1 million payment on the Woodland Elementary School debt;

• $200,000 for land-takings associated with the upcoming Rt. 16 repaving project, including widening the Rt. 16/Rt. 140 intersection;

• $190,000 for a new Highway Department truck;

• $300,000, Milford's portion to replace the Fiske Mill Rd. bridge shared with Upton; and,

• $710,000 to pay off two school-improvement related bonds early.




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