Published June 20, 2019


NORTH READING — This year’s installment of the Annual Town Meeting June 10 moved along quite efficiently as the 121 voters present dispensed with all 29 articles in just under two hours.

With the exception of the general bylaw change to create a plastic bag ban at retail checkouts in town under Article 27, there was little debate concerning the bulk of the town’s business for FY20. As reported in last week’s Transcript, the bag ban carried on a voice vote following a spirited 50-minute discussion. It is due to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020 as a delayed implementation will enable retailers to go through their stock.

The town’s operating budget was voted under Article 15 in two separate motions: The first motion was approved by the voters unanimously to raise and appropriate line items 1 through 112 totaling $67,321,729 (excluding line 98 for debt service of $8M). It was noted that due to typographical errors and omissions printed on pages 29 and 33 of the warrant, a handout on green paper, dated June 10, would also be part of this vote. Also noted was the sum of $731,204 which represents the town’s share of the Northeast Voke Tech and the Essex Aggie assessment is include in this motion.

The second motion under Article 15 authorized the town to raise and appropriate and/or transfer funds totaling $8,006,267 to pay for the town’s debt service through June 10.

The total amount approved by voters for the town’s FY20 budget is $75,327,997 which breaks down to $32,488,977 for all education (including vocational schools), $28,727,875 for general government, $8,006,267 for debt service and $6,104,877 in the various enterprise funds which are supported through the fees generated such as Parks and Recreation or ambulance fees.

Article 1: Voters unanimously approved four amendments to the FY19 operating budget approved at the June 4, 2018 Annual Town Meeting:

• Transferred $40,600 from Free Cash to Line 52 – DPW expenses (town buildings)

• Transferred $18,500 from Line 101 – Water Dept. expenses to Line 102 Water Dept. capital

• Transferred $253,615.68 from Water Department Retained Earnings to Water Enterprise – Reserve for BAN/Bond Premium

• Authorized the town to enter into a lease purchase financing agreement to acquire golf carts and related equipment for the Hillview golf course through the issuance of debt for a term not to exceed five years. Previously, the maximum length of time allowed was three years. Entering into the lease agreement continues to require a recommendation from the Select Board, which must determine the useful lifespan of the equipment.

Article 2: Since there was no snow and ice deficit to fund from FY19, this article was passed over.

Article 3: Unanimously transferred from Free Cash $1,012,964 to be added to the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund, which is used for capital purchased and debt service.

Article 4: Unanimously transferred $512,428 from the FY19 Water Dept. Retained Earnings to the Water Infrastructure Stabilization Fund.

Article 5: Unanimously transferred from Free Cash $500,000 to be added to the Stabilization Fund.

Article 6: Unanimously voted to pass over a transfer of funds into the Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Liability Trust Fund.

Article 7: Unanimously transferred $30,000 into the Solid Waste Stabilization Fund from the Solid Waste Management line item (No. 55) of the FY19 Operating Budget, originally appropriated under Article 14 of the June 4, 2018 Town Meeting.

Article 8: Unanimously voted to pass over making an FY19 appropriation into the town’s Participating Funding Arrangement (PFA) pertaining to the town’s health insurance plan. Fall Town Meeting will likely be the more appropriate time to do so since claims are made on a calendar year basis, not a fiscal year basis.

Article 9: Unanimously authorized the Select Board to choose all necessary town officers not elected by ballot and to determine what instructions shall be given to those officers.

Article 10: Unanimously accepted the printed Town Report for year 2018 as the report of town officers and committees and hear reports presented.

Article 11: Unanimously authorized a routine action allowing the Director of the DPW to accept any easements on behalf of the town.

Article 12: Unanimously authorized a routine action allowing the town’s Treasurer to enter into compensating balance agreements with banks through which a portion of the interest earnings of deposits are retained by the bank in exchange for services rather than having the town make direct payments to the banks to handle such services.

Article 13: Unanimously authorized the town to appropriate the funds received under the state’s Chapter 90 highway construction funds to be used for the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of the town’s roadways. The town anticipates receiving $516,073 in such funds this year which will be added to the $1M the town has also appropriated for its roadways.

Article 14: Since there were no outstanding bills from prior years the voters unanimously passed over this article.

Article 16: Unanimously authorized the town’s capital budget to be approved. Under the town’s charter, capital budget items are annually funded this way to allow the town to purchase and replace such equipment for various town departments, including the schools, as recommended by the town’s Capital Improvement Planning Committee (CIPC). Of the $115,000 appropriated for document management in the IT department, $56,091 will be paid from Free Cash and $58,909 comes from the Debt Capital Stabilization Fund. The $361,178 for a new ambulance is covered by a BAN and will be paid from ambulance receipts earned.

Article 17: A vote to rescind authorization to borrow was passed over as it was not needed this year.

Article 18: Unanimously voted to raise and appropriate $200,000 to fund the FY20 retirement obligations for town employees and Article 19 raised and appropriated $300,000 for the Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Liability Trust Fund.

Under Article 20 voters appropriated $26,230 from Free Cash to purchase the town’s share of a state grant to obtain permitting software for Town Hall to streamline the process between various departments and the public.

Article 21: Voters unanimously approved a transfer of $50,000 from Free Cash to construct, reconstruct or make improvements to town buildings. This year’s projects include HVAC improvements to the library and office renovations at Town Hall to accommodate a new employee.

Article 22 was passed over as it was not needed to fund more special counsel legal expenses.

Article 23 was unanimously passed to create a School District Reserve Fund that covers unexpected SPED expenditures, as allowed by state law. Passage of Article 24 seeded the fund with $100,000.

Article 25, to appropriate funds for survey, engineering design or construction of a portion of Swan Pond Road, was passed over as the town has not reached the design stage. A previously funded stormwater study was authorized by the board to proceed in late May.

Article 26, to approve Hillview golf cart leases in excess of five years, was permitted in order to allow the Hillview to negotiate for the best price. The motion will authorize the Hillview Commission to enter into such leases with the approval of the town administrator.

Article 28 was passed over. It was a placeholder in case the town was ready to make some zoning changes for its land management plans.

Article 29 authorized the unanimous approval of the street acceptance of Little Meadow Way, a small cul-de-sac off Marblehead Street.