Shortfall postpones Town Meeting
By Tom Gorman
Friday, May 11, 2007
Facing a $2.3 million budget shortfall, officials
have postponed the annual Town Meeting until May 29 in order to get
a better handle on Holbrook’s finances.
Town Administrator Michael Yunits told the Sun
that the board of selectmen decided on May 3 to put off the Town
Meeting originally scheduled for May 15 so the finance committee
could have more time reviewing possible revenue sources to cover the
fiscal year 2008 budget deficit. The fiscal year begins July 1.
Last week, Yunits said that department budget
requests are about $3.4 million more than this year.
He noted that there are some costs the town has
no control over, including insurance, retirements, and the Norfolk
County Pension Fund.
“These have to be funded,” Yunits said.
After all of the mandated costs have been
funded, Yunits said that the finance committee would then see what
monies are left to cover requests.
Last month’s special Town Meeting funded
shortfalls in this year’s police and fire department budgets and
covered some unpaid bills.
Revenue from the sale of the Franklin School
and Brookville fire station; along with some available monies from
other accounts, bridged the gap.
Officials have noted that the town’s revenue
stream has increased due to some new procedures and policies.
Last year, Town Meeting adopted a water shutoff
policy that has been instrumental in forcing delinquent customers to
Meanwhile, liens and foreclosures have been
stepped up cm those properties with longstanding unpaid taxes.
Officials will be looking at these revenues and
others as possible funding sources.
One of the larger budgets is the school
department’s proposed $12.4 million spending plan, which is $1.9
million over this year’s.
Superintendent of Schools Susan Martin has
explained that the increase is necessary to cover mandates by
several state education agencies, as well as address number of
issues cited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges
(NEASC) during its re-accreditation review of Holbrook Junior/Senior
The school’s accreditation has been placed on
probation status until the NEASC’s recommendations are carried out
“Due to the fact that the school district had
to follow the mandates and accountability systems, the budget
submitted was an increase over last year’s,” Martin told the Sun
In addition to die requested budget increase,
another $680,870 would be needed to cover a hike in transportation
Other warrant articles include an eminent
domain petition that seeks Town Meeting’s approval to allow a study
of the town taking the proposed Old English Square site and
converting it into a municipal golf course.
One of the backers of the petition, assessor
Robert Powalitis, explained that the proposal was prompted out of
“frustration” that the project was stalled and the developer, The
Muffins Company of Braintree, was changing the scope of the plans
and challenging planning board conditions.
The proposal also calls for the town to enter
into a lease agreement with the Joint Water Board to use its 22-acre
parcel of abandoned wells and incorporate it into the golf course.
Powalitis also expressed displeasure with
Mullins’s proposal to establish a horse stable on the property and
build four homes on English Road next to the Old English site.
Mullins officials have said they are not
changing their plans and are in the final stages of permit approvals
and planning board hearings.
Muffins officials have submitted a zoning
article to allow a horse stable at Old English Square.
Other articles include a recall article;
allowing accessibility apartments; $40,000 in drainage improvements
for Cedar Hill Road; and $10,000 for a street acceptance plan for
Yunits explained that the recall article,
submitted by petition, would establish a provision in the town
charter to allow a recall of elected officials.
The town has no such bylaw now.
”Right now, (elected officials) can’t be voted out until their term
is up,” Yunits said.