Friday, April 22, 2005

Selectmen’s Meeting and Trash Stickers

At the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday night the Town Administrator recapped the efforts currently underway to find more money for the Milton Public Schools before the Town Meeting, which begins on May 2nd.

Mr. Colton reported that consideration is being given to increasing the estimate for new growth by $200,000. The Warrant Committee’s budget currently assumes $600,000 in new growth. New growth for the current fiscal year was $839,000. Apparently a change in the projection is being opposed by the Assessor’s office.

An investigation of the possibility of tapping into the NSTAR mitigation funding has been unsuccessful. The Town Administrator read from a letter received from NSTAR which clearly communicated their expectation that the already agreed to terms of the Memorandum of Understanding would be honored.

Mr. Colton also reported that discussions are being pursued with Curry College and Milton Academy about a payment in lieu of taxes.

Finally, trash sticker fees were discussed, with two of the Board members expressing a willingness to consider an increase. It seems, however, that they are not willing to move on this issue unless they see it as part of a package of new revenue large enough to significantly reduce the drastic cuts faced by the schools and thereby convince the School Committee to not seek an override.

So here we are 10 days from Town Meeting and the School Budget remains by far the most seriously impacted by the currently proposed budget. Serious efforts are being made to find more funding. But as the days pass, the probability increases that equity will be sought on Town Meeting floor, or that an override will be proposed. More on that later.

Two final comments on remarks made at this meeting about trash stickers. The Town Administrator said that some people might find it “extraordinary to allocate trash sticker fees to the schools.” I suppose that’s one way to look at it. On the other hand one could, I think, more properly say that the increased sticker fees permit us to re-allocate general fund revenues that had to be used to cover the gap between the cost of a service and the fees generated to pay for it. At this very moment, I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that these funds, freed up by a trash sticker fee increase which more properly funds that service, should go anywhere but to a decimated school department budget.

It was also noted that the decision by the Board to not increase these fees two years ago might be a blessing in disguise, since such an increase would preclude doing so now, just two short years later. But an increase two years ago would hardly have been a one- time revenue boost. We would still be enjoying the benefits of this increase as we plan for FY 2006. And just as importantly, we would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars to allocate during the last two years.

Raising trash sticker fees certainly has political costs. But not raising them also has had costs. There is no question that greater reductions to staff than would otherwise have been the case resulted from not raising these fees earlier.


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