School Budget Correction Tops TM Warrant
By: Mary Stanley
Voters at the upcoming Special Town Meeting will be asked to cut the school's budget by nearly $400,000 to reflect a reduction in state aid, send a $5.4 million debt exclusion to the polls, and lease some town-owned land to the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce.
The meeting is set for Monday, October 25, beginning at 7 PM, inside the Sandwich High School auditorium.
With just three articles to tackle, Town Manager George H. Dunham is confident the discussion will move quickly, even with a debt exclusion on the warrant.
The reason this meeting was originally scheduled was to vote on the school budget cut. Mr. Dunham said the cut is necessary because the town voted this year's budget on the assumption the state would give the town as much state aid this year as it did last year. Unfortunately, that state budget reduced its aid allotment to Sandwich by $393,508.
Mr. Dunham was quick to point that the school department is slated to receive an additional $483,000 from a Federal Education Jobs Grant, which will more than make up for the lost state aid. This grant was given to states that agreed to meet the federal curriculum standards.
The second article on the warrant asks voters to approve putting a $5.365 million, 10-year Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion on a ballot for a townwide vote at the polls. The money would be earmarked for repairs to town buildings. Mr. Dunham expects that this article will take up a majority of the meeting, since members of the Capital Improvements Planning Committee are expected to present a detailed list of the buildings that will be repaired.
The list of repairs includes $990,000 for the Fire Department's headquarters on Route 6A as well as $145,000 to improve living quarters at the fire station on Route 130. It also includes $200,000 to make repairs to the police station; $120,000 to replace windows and doors at the Human Services Building; $140,000 for repairs at the Department of Public Works building; $2.4 million to replace the roofs at the Oak Ridge and Forestdale schools and make repairs to windows at both schools; and $300,000 to install an elevator at the town-owned Sandwich Hollows Golf Club to bring the facility up to compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
Last year, the CIPC hired a consultant to examine all of the town's buildings and provide recommendations and estimates for all of those repair needs. While the full list of recommended repairs totaled $26 million, the CIPC whittled the list down to just the most pressing and critical repairs.
This article received mixed reviews from the finance committee, with two members voting not to support the article. Member William Diedering III said although he agreed that maintenance needs to be done, the timing is bad. In earlier interviews, Mr. Diedering said with the possibility of a Proposition 2 1/2 override needed for next year and high unemployment rates, now is not the time to be asking residents to increase taxes through a debt exclusion. He said that these repairs should have been addressed when the town had the money to pay for them.
A yes vote on this article at the Special Town Meeting will put the question on the ballot in the upcoming election on November 2.
The final article on the warrant asks voters to approve leasing two acres of land to the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce.
This land is just behind the Visitors Information Booth on Route 130, which the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce now operates and staffs.
According to Kathleen M. Bavelock, director of the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, leasing this land will allow the chamber to begin taking steps toward building a facility with offices for the chamber and, perhaps even, bathroom facilities for the public.
The chamber currently holds a lease for the information booth parcel but Ms. Bavelock said that land is narrow and does not provide the setbacks needed to build a facility for the chamber's administrative offices.
As it stands now, the chamber's offices are in the Jack Conway building on Route 6A. "Although it is a nice space, we still can't accommodate holding meetings with the 20 people who sit on the board of directors," she said.
Over the next three to five years, she said the chamber would like to build a place of its own and would prefer that the facility be located near the Visitors Information Booth.
"If we were on-site, we could provide coverage at the booth. It would be wonderful to consolidate in one central place. It's hard to manage the booth from a different location," she said.
Ms. Bavelock said by locating the chamber's offices behind the information booth, it will allow the organization to continue providing services to the town that include an economic development component, as well as a tourism component.
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