By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — In preparation for the annual June Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, June 6 at 7 p.m. in the NRHS gym, the Select Board will hold its Warrant Article Informational Hearing on Wednesday, June 1 at 7:45 p.m.
At this informational hearing, which will be offered in a hybrid format with both in-person and virtual attendance options available to all interested residents, business owners and the general public, questions may be asked of board members on any of the 27 articles contained in the warrant. The warrant includes the omnibus articles to fund all municipal and school operations in Fiscal Year 2023.
Information on participating remotely in this meeting is included in the printed warrant and will be included on the posted agenda for the June 1 Select Board meeting (via either Zoom or dial-in audio only). For in-person attendance, go to Room 14 in Town Hall, 235 North St.
According to Town Administrator Mike Gilleberto, the warrant will be mailed to all households in town on Friday, with anticipated delivery by Saturday or Monday, well in advance of the public hearing. The warrant will also be posted on the town website later this week at www.northreadingma.gov.
Questions may also be submitted directly to Gilleberto’s office via email ([email protected]). He will respond to any question received by noon on Friday, May 27 at the June 1 hearing as well.
In order to participate in the open Town Meeting on June 6 townspeople must have been registered to vote in North Reading by Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Unregistered voters may still attend the Town Meeting to observe the proceedings; however, they will be seated in one section with other non-voters.
As is typical of a Town Meeting warrant, many of the articles are routine; however, the most important factor is the town’s voters are being presented with a balanced budget.
As the Finance Committee points out in its report to the voters, published in the warrant: “Careful budgeting has brought the town to a successful end of FY2022. As we plan for the upcoming fiscal year we do so with greater confidence that we can continue to offer the full range of services residents expect although we must continue to be careful and plan conservatively.”
“The challenge continues to be how to maintain as much as possible of a level services budget in this economy. The current rate of inflation affects a number of areas of town expenses. Wages, services and other costs increase at a greater rate than the 2 1/2 tax cap creating difficulty. We need to continue to carefully guard resources for the future. However we would be remiss if we did not take care of the town’s infrastructure,” the FinCom letter states.
“You will find that FY2023’s Capital budget is at a more normal level supporting needed equipment and major repairs, for example structural repairs to the library have been funded as have road repairs, instructional technical equipment for the schools, etc. If items such as building and road repairs are not done in an appropriate time frame these items become more expensive to accomplish.”
“We enter this upcoming year satisfied that while we have not been able to fund a number of worthwhile requests we have made good progress. The Capital Improvement Planning Committee report will list funded items. We find ourselves with a balanced budget which has allowed for capital expenditures and the hiring of a few key necessary personnel in addition to maintaining level services within reason.”
“Tax payers have also experienced the negative impact of the economy. Large tax increases would not be welcomed! However the residents of North Reading do not want to see the gains achieved in quality education programs, public safety and infrastructure maintenance be diminished. Through the hard work of both school and municipal leaders in conjunction with the Town Administrator, School Superintendent, School Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, Finance Committee, Financial Planning Team and the town Finance Director we have arrived at a balanced budget. It is one that it is felt can be lived with and one which understands future challenges.”
The FinCom letter is signed by Chair Abby Hurlbut, Vice Chair Dan Mills, Clerk Richard Johnson and members Ben Gamer, Ted Haggerty, Don Kelliher, Dan Pulver and Matt Davis.
The budget recommended jointly by the FinCom and the Select Board totals $84,214,255, which was pared back from total department head requests of $84,483,319. This includes all operating expenses for general government and the schools and all fixed costs.
The Select Board voted unanimously May 9 to recommend the FY23 Operating Budget as proposed by the Town Administrator in the following amounts:
• Municipal FY 23 Budget: $19,138,291.00 (33.11%)
• School FY23 Budget: $35,709,330.00 (66.89%)
• FY23 Fixed Costs: $23,209,712.57
• Total Budget: $78,057,333.57.
Voting were Select Board members Chair Kate Manupelli, Vice Chair Vincenzo Stuto, Clerk Rich Wallner and members Stephen O’Leary and Liane Gonzalez.
The School Department budget approved by the School Committee on May 2, the day before the Town Election, totaled $36,481,702, includes the town’s vocational school assessment and all special education expenses, and out-of-district placements. Voting were Chair Scott Buckley, and members Rich McGowan, Dyana Boutwell, Janene Imbriano and Chris Pappavaselio.
Recommended budget by categories
Under General Government, the funds being requested are: Administration: $2,074131; Finance: $ 15,524,031; Public Safety: $9,042,078; Public Works: $4,487,383; General Services $1,583,472; and Land Use: $280,386.
Rounding out the categories are Debt Service at $7,719,826 and the town’s various Enterprises at $7,021247.
The FY23 warrant articles are as follows:
• Article 1: FY2022 Budget Amendment
• Article 2: Fund FY2022 Snow and Ice Deficit
• Article 3: FY2022 Appropriate Funds to Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund
• Article 4: FY2022 Transfer Funds to Water Stabilization Fund
• Article 5: FY2022 Appropriate Money to Stabilization Fund
• Article 6: FY2022 Transfer Funds to Other Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund
• Article 7: FY2022 Transfer Funds to Solid Waste Stabilization Fund
• Article 8: FY2022 Appropriate Funds to Participating Funding Arrangement Fund
• Article 9: Select Town Officers
• Article 10: Hear and Act on Reports of Town Officers and Committees
• Article 11: Prior Year Bills
• Article 12: FY2023 Operating Budget
• Article 13: Fund Retirement Obligations
• Article 14: Appropriate Funds to Other Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund
• Article 15: Authorize Treasurer to Enter into Compensating Balance Agreements
• Article 16: Rescind Authorization to Borrow
• Article 17: FY2023 Capital Expenditures
• Article 18: Fund Town Building Repairs
• Article 19: Authorize Chapter 90 Highway Construction Funds
• Article 20: Authorize Director of Public Works to Accept Easements
• Article 21: Appropriate Funds for Legal Expenses – Middle/High School Litigation
• Article 22: Appropriate Funds for Legal Expenses – 20 Elm Street Litigation
• Article 23: Increase Amount for Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption
• Article 24: Increase Income Limit for Senior Property Tax Deferral
• Article 25: Amend Code – General By-laws – Chapter 11 – Alarm Systems
• Article 26: Amend Code – General By-laws – Assessments (Sewer Betterments)
• Article 27: Appropriate Funds for Forestry Consultant – Swan Pond Forest Area.