WEBSTER – Town Administrator Douglas C. Willardson prefaced this week’s town meeting by suggesting that although some financial issues need to be addressed, the town’s overall condition is not dire.
In wake of a recent audit report about fiscal 2016, which raised numerous concerns, and the Finance Committee’s suggestion that the town rein in spending, Mr. Willardson attempted to allay concerns for voters.
The administrator said the fiscal 2018 budget is balanced, and the fiscal 2019 budget looks like it can be balanced without significantly affecting services. But he cautioned that subsequent years could bring challenges based on the expiration of collective bargaining agreements, and projected growth in health insurance claims and the school budget.
Before Monday’s town meeting, certified free cash stood at $2.6 million. Town meeting appropriated $1.2 million of the free cash, including $534,000 that it transferred to the stabilization account.
Mr. Willardson said Webster struggles bringing in enough revenue to the same extent as most other towns. But the hope is to bring down expenses and find other revenue sources in the coming years, with a focus on building up the overall tax base so that new tax growth can help fund future projects.
In terms of voting items, a new rule sponsored by resident Gregory Lynskey will prevent non-Webster residents from launching personal watercraft such as Jet Skis from Memorial Beach, subject to approval by the state attorney general’s office.
Mr. Lynskey said that in the past couple of years, Jet Ski use has gotten out of control, particularly in Webster Lake’s North Pond.
Through a records request, Mr. Lynskey said, he learned that this year the police issued 19 citations to boaters on the lake, of which 18 were for Jet Ski use. Ten of the violators live in Massachusetts but not Webster, and eight live out of state, he said.
Voters also approved $76,511 from free cash to help complete a renovation of high school space to house school administrative offices.
The schools had originally sought $132,852. The difference will come from a facilities rental revolving account the schools maintain for emergency maintenance issues. The use of students from Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton will reduce the amount needed for labor, and the project should be completed by Christmas, officials said.
A moratorium on legal marijuana businesses until December 2018, by which time the state is expected to establish rules for such businesses, also passed.
However, voters said no to a proposed $575,000 engine truck for the Fire Department.
And they rejected 1.1 acres of land on High Street, after learning that would-be donors Niel and Geraldine Fossile owed $14,000 in back taxes, and had stipulated that the town erect a plaque thanking them for the land, which is frequented by homeless people.
Mr. Willardson and Selectman Robert J. Miller stated they believed it would be in the town’s best interest to have a private party purchase the land.
By Brian Lee
Telegram & Gazette Staff