By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The 101 voters who attended last night’s Annual Town Meeting made quick work of the town’s $114,171,027 budget for FY 2023. Even the School Department’s nearly $48 million budget sparked no discussion. The only question raised pertained to future school enrollment projections.
After a fiscal overview from Finance Committee member Dan Sherman and introductory remarks from Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio, it was on to Article 1, the requested town budget for FY 2023.
As has been the practice for many years, the budget was broken down into broad categories, with each category discussed and voted individually.
The first section of the budget was the “General Government” portion, for which $2,680,888 was requested. This portion of the budget includes many Town Hall departments, including the Town Council’s Office, the Accounting Department, the IT Department, the Treasurer’s Office, the Legal Department, the Tax Collector, the Assessor’s Office, The Town Clerk, the Finance Committee, the Conservation Commission, the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals.
The Finance Committee recommended favorable action and voters approved the General Government portion of the budget with no discussion from the floor.
The “Protection of Persons and Property” section of the budget also passed with no discussion. This section included the Police Department budget of $6,723,493 and the Fire Department Budget of $6,327,332. Also included in category was $66,700 for “Fire Alarm, Police Signals and Traffic Lights” and $88,851 for Emergency Management. The Inspectional Services Department ($438,778), Animal Inspector ($40,600) and Parking Clerk ($12,782) brought the total approved for Protection of Persons and property to $13,698,536.
The $1,003,195 “Human Services” section of the budget included #247,300 for the Council on Aging and 383,076 for the New “Health and Human Services Department, which has added several new positions to what was prior to this year known simply as the “Health Department.” Those new positions include an Assistant Director and a full-time Social Services Coordinator.
Rounding out the Human Services section of the budget were the Recreation Department’s request for $119,599 and the Veterans Department at $253,220.
The Human Services section of the budget was approved with no questions or comments from the floor of Town Meeting.
The Public Works Department budget of $7,584,130 also passed with no discussion. Similarly, the Public Works enterprise department budgets passed with no questions or comments. The approved Water Division budget of $6,204,494 and the Sewer Division budget of $9,148,699 totaled a combined $15,353,193.
The S47,722,077 School Department budget was presented by Superintendent Doug Lyons. The budget for the schools comprises 49 percent of the town’s total budget. The only discussion from the floor was from Water Street’s Bob McLaughlin who asked Lyons a question about school enrollment projections. The School Department budget was passed with no further discussion.
The $1,877,097 Library Department budget also passed without comment or question.
There was also no discussion as Town Meeting voters approved the $2,163,315 Vocational School budget.
The $2,605,082 “Unclassified” budget included funding for street lights, the Historical Commission, General Insurance, Medicare, Unemployment, the Reserve Fund and “Cable TV Public Access Enterprise.”
The only question from the floor came from Water Street’s Bob McLaughlin who criticized the $2,000 appropriated for the Historical Commission as grossly insufficient. But Town Councilor Edward Dombroski defended the amount, noting that funding for many of the functions that the Historical Commission performs comes from other sources.
It was back to no discussion as voters approved the $19,483,514 Benefits and Administration budget. This budget includes the Retirement System ($6,087,779), Workers Compensation ($436,500) and Group Health ($12,748,921). Town meeting also approved $944,249 from the Wakefield Municipal Light Department to fund its employees participation in the Retirement System, Workers Comp and Group Health.
Last night, Town Meeting also approved under Article 2 the Capital Outlay budgets for for FY 2023, including $2,100,000 for the tax levy portion, $862,000 for the Sewer Division and $875,000 for the Water Division.