SHIRLEY -- During a relatively brief joint budget session Monday night, Finance Committee Chairman Frank Kolarik asked acting Selectmen Chairman David Swain where the town stands in terms of the governor's "9-C" budget cuts.
"We sent memos to all departments, asking them to cut back on expenses," Swain responded. And savings might come from other areas, short term. The Conservation Commission, for example, still hasn't hired a new agent, so that's another source of savings, temporarily at least, along with other "surpluses" elsewhere in the town budget.
"Stabilization can fill in the 9-C related shortfalls," Swain continued, but no details yet.
This year's budget was built assuming the town would get about $90,000 in prison mitigation funding from the state for hosting a prison. Now, spending based on that assumption should "definitely come out" if it doesn't materialize, Swain said. "Free cash may help, but not much."
"The real problem is going forward," he continued, noting that he had also recommended tapping the last dregs left in the original MCI nest egg, freeing up amounts previously earmarked to pay bills from the middle school building project. For various reasons, most of those obligations are no longer in effect. Use of that money, however, is limited to public safety or infrastructure or to purchase related equipment, such as a police cruiser.
Employee hours and salaries upped in October, when there was confidence the MCI mitigation funds were forthcoming will continue, at least until Town Meeting.
Wrapping up the meeting, Swain updated the public on the status of the CAO situation.
Chief Administrator David Berry has been placed on paid administrative leave and the selectmen plan to hold a hearing to terminate him "for cause," Swain said.
At a previous meeting, Swain made a motion calling for Berry to resign, and if he did not, to fire him. The motion passed, two to one, with Swain and Dumont voting yes and Chairman Andy Deveau voting no.
Berry did not resign.
Deveau has since resigned and is currently out of town.
Swain did not state the cause he plans to site for letting Berry go, but he and Selectman Kendra Dumont have expressed dissatisfaction with Berry's job performance in the past, and when Swain made the motion to oust him, he indicated that the CAO model might be revisited.