Town Administrator presents annual report ahead of Town Meeting
Town Administrator Jim Boudreau offered no big surprises at his presentation of the annual budget report last Monday at the Merritt Center. Boudreau reiterated the town’s three main goals: “develop a sustainable, balanced, budget,” “maintain aggressive capital spending” and “continue to build reserves for economic downturn.” The report details budgets and forecasts for fiscal year 2018 and will be presented at the upcoming Town Meeting in April.
He also offered a few facts. State aid is projected to increase 1.79 percent, which he termed a “slight increase.” Health insurance is expected to rise 5%, the school department budget 4%, increased pension costs 8% and funding for increased field maintenance to the tune of $125,000. In the latter realm, Boudreau chalked the increase up to new DPW Director John Tomasz’s “concerted effort” to bring the town’s facilities up to snuff. On the subject of facilities, Boudreau also outlined aggressive capital projects spending, which totals $1,796,418.
Boudreau also left space in the budget to fulfill a salary increase for Recreation Director Julie Mallett. The move brought the discussion of Mallett’s pay back into the spotlight, which has been a topic of debate among selectmen recently.
According to data, Mallett’s salary is on the low end compared to nearby towns. Mallett received a 20% pay increase last year, and the Recreation Department is asking for a 27% increase this year. Board of Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford had argued – and maintained his argument at Monday’s meeting – that increasing her salary two years in a row sets a poor precedent, and besides that passes over town employees who have dedicated their services for many more years.
In the end, it did little to sway the opinion of Chris Barrett and Dick Dalton, whose votes allowed the measure to pass, 2-1. The passed vote includes and increases the budget to $13,432 to meet the commission’s request.
By Melanie Higgins
Modest increase, upgraded positions characterize school budget
The School Department will not be seeking any drastic changes, according to Superintendent Jane Tremblay at last week’s Finance Committee meeting on March 6. Tremblay outlined her plans for the school district’s budget before the 11-member panel in a series of presentations, the last one going before the Board of Selectmen on February 27. In her presentation Tremblay asked for a modest 4% increase from last year’s budget, which she called “comparatively low.” The appropriation request is for $23,780,038.
The increases reflect a few changes within the school district: one being the need for more teacher coverage, the other being changes in contracts. According to Tremblay, contracts for items such as transportation and special education costs have risen 2.5 percent. On the other front, the current part-time school psychologist is being overwhelmed by the increase in volume of students seeking attention. To remedy this problem, Tremblay is seeking to increase the psychologist’s hours from part-time to full-time. She is also seeking to transform a part-time foreign language position into full-time at the middle school to meet the foreign language needs of students.
To accommodate these changes, Tremblay said, the schools would be eliminating one classroom at the Summer Street School. Overall, Tremblay said that the changes are necessary to helping maintain Lynnfield’s status as a town that produces top students.
“The budget always comes back to the basics of our mission and vision,” said Tremblay.
The Finance Committee will convene later this month to go over the budgets of numerous town departments and make their final recommendations to the Board of Selectmen before April Town Meeting.
By Melanie Higgins