Rehoboth Facing Tough Budget Choice at Town Meeting
Voters will meet on Tuesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. for a Special Town Meeting and Annual Town Meeting. There are eight articles to be considered in the Special Town Meeting warrant, which includes budget adjustments and other changes to this year’s budget, and 28 articles in the Annual Town Meeting warrant, including a $26.1 million budget for Fiscal Year 2019, representing a 1 percent reduction from this year’s budget.
Special Town Meeting
The Special Town Meeting warrant includes the following articles:
- Article 1 requests $20,000 in funding for additional part-time Fire Department wages which was needed due to increased call volume.
- Article 2 seeks approval to purchase three parcels of land, known as the Dorrance land, totaling approx. 15 acres, off Anawan Street for building a public safety, municipal office and/or animal shelter. This will be funded through the Solar Revenue Capital Account.
- Article 3 seeks approval to use $29,000 of Capital Preservation Fund monies to secure an agricultural preservation restriction on the Ormond Farm on Davis St.
- Article 4 requests $109,900 in funding for capital items including a lawn mower, police cruiser, town office permitting software and gear extractor and dryer for the Fire Department.
- Article 5 requests $25,000 in funding for Board of Assessors’ software upgrade in order to remain compliant with Massachusetts regulations.
- Articles 8 seeks acceptance of a new tax provision that imposes a 3 percent local sales tax on the sale of marijuana.
Annual Town Meeting: FY19 Budget
There are several important articles on the annual town meeting warrant, but arguably the most important is Article 2, the town budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Town officials are hoping residents will become informed about the budget and participate in the town meeting.
A Budget and Warrant Discussion will be held on Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center/COA. The session will be televised live and replayed on Public Access Channel 9 before Town Meeting. The session will also be available for viewing online at www.rehobothtv.org.
The finance committee faced a $3.7 million budget shortfall while preparing the budget for next year. The FY19 budget requests from town departments totaled $29.8 million and the revenue estimates for FY19 are projected at $26.1 million.
Voters at town meeting will be presented with a $26.1 million budget. The school department has proposed a budget of $19.5 million, which represents a 17.5 percent increase over last year. The finance committee is recommending $15.8 million for the school department (nearly $800,000 less than FY18) and $9.69 for town government expenses.
School officials have said the school budget cut could mean that many teachers and staff will have to be laid off. If voters at town meeting increase the school budget, it would require a Proposition 2 ½ override. If the Proposition 2 ½ override is not approved, cuts to other town departments such as public safety and highway would be necessary. (State law prevents towns from cutting their regional school assessments after it is voted on at town meeting.)
Annual Town Meeting: Other Warrant Articles
Other articles on the annual town meeting warrant include:
- Article 8 seeks approval of a new marijuana bylaw and authorization for the Board of Selectmen, as Licensing Authority, to regulate the licensing of marijuana establishments in town.
- Articles 10, 11, 12, &13 seek approval of bylaw amendments relating to dangerous and nuisance dogs in order to be in compliance with new state laws and to protect the health and safety of the community.
- Articles 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19 seek approval of bylaw amendments relating to fines for failure to vaccinate dogs for rabies; licensing, categories and fees for kennels; fines for violations of individual and kennel licensing requirements, and the treatment of dogs.
- Article 20 seeks approval to move the Conservation Agent under the Board of Selectmen as appointing authority and administrative director for the position.
- Article 21 seeks approval to move the Town Planner back to the Board of Selectmen as appointing authority and administrative director for the position.
- Article 23 seeks approval of a zoning bylaw amendment related to marijuana establishments. In November 2016 Rehoboth voters voted in favor of a ballot question allowing the licensing of such establishments.
- Article 24 requests approval of a zoning bylaw amendment to identify the Highway Business District as referenced in the new sign bylaw and marijuana establishments bylaw.
The remaining articles are routine articles involving housekeeping changes and acceptance of revolving accounts, financial reports and committee reports.