SHIRLEY -- When selectmen held a public hearing on Monday, April 28, to present the Annual Town Meeting warrant, the document they handed out was still a work in progress. Although main elements were in place, it was missing a few key pieces, including inserted text for articles 11-14, which seek to amend or adopt town bylaws.
It was the final draft of a warrant the board previously voted to close.
But they re-opened it to add another item to the roster of articles, now 20 in all. Inserted as Article 2, the added item calls for supplemental funding for two accounts that exceeded amounts appropriated for them last year: Snow and ice removal expenses and public buildings.
The Omnibus Budget was among a handful of pending attachments.
Article 4, which seeks to appropriate the town's "Omnibus Operating Budget for FY2015," references "Appendix D" for line item details. No amount was stated in the article.
Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said the Omnibus Budget would be posted on the town website.
When the budget-building process began earlier this year, the total was in the $11 million range, with a negative $138,000 gap between estimated expenses and anticipated revenue. Now, with cuts made and numbers firmed up on both sides, the gap is about the same, with one-time funds likely to be tapped to close it for a balanced budget this year.
But the regional school assessment could upset Town Administrator Patrice Garvin's balanced budget plans.
Monday night, Garvin said the budget deficit she and the finance team have been wrangling with still stands at $138,000 and could grow by $200,000 if the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District assessment is approved with an 8.4 percent hike over last year.
Based on the budget the School Committee certified, the district is asking for the higher assessment amount versus the 4.4 percent increase built into the town budget. Garvin said she's talking with school officials and still hopes to resolve the issue.
A proposed new protective zoning bylaw would add an "integrated planning overlay district" to allow commercial and industrial development on sections of Great Road now zoned residential.
A new streetlights by-law would set uniform standards for lights erected on new or existing poles and lays out the rules and responsibilities. For example, if a resident requests to have a streetlight installed by the utility company "at his own expense," the new streetlight would have to be consistent with others in town and the resident would be expected to arrange and pay for maintenance.
A proposed amendment to the Financial Affairs Bylaw would allow the town to charge and collect interest on unpaid or overdue bills such as back taxes and employee health insurance premiums owed by individuals not on the payroll who were covered under the town's insurance policy but failed to pay their percentage share, as agreed.
Individuals in this category would not be town employees, whose health plan contributions are deducted from their paychecks. Based on previous policy, others eligible for town insurance included on-call firefighters and some elected officials.
Article 15 seeks authorization for a Home Rule Petition that would change two town positions from elected to appointed: Town Clerk and Town Collector. If this motion passes, the selectmen can petition the legislature to enact "special legislation" allowing the town to enact these changes, effective after the terms of the elected positions expire.
The proposed Act is spelled out in the warrant.
An article sponsored by the Nashoba Valley Technical High School was moved up on the warrant, from 17 to 5.
NVTHS is an 8-town regional high school district the town belongs to. The article, which will appear on the warrants of all the member towns, seeks approval to borrow $2.8 million for a roof project at the school, located in Westford.
Part of the funding will come from an MSBA grant with the balance apportioned to member towns based on enrollment and paid as part of each town's annual assessment. There was no figure yet, however.
Selectman David Swain suggested moving the article up on the warrant. It could spark discussion, but even if it doesn't, Swain said he didn't want the NVTHS representatives obliged to stick around all night.
He also said that future capital projects should be considered in light of two regional school district assessments each year instead of one, with projects anticipated for both. "We need to be consistent, going forward, with ASRSD capital projects," he said.
The final two articles would transfer unstated amounts to General Stabilization and Capital Stabilization Funds. If there's any money to transfer.
Annual Town Meeting is set for Monday, June 2, at 7:15 p.m. in the Ayer Shirley Middle School auditorium.