Falmouth Town Meeting members approved the town’s budget, agreeing to a 2.48 percent increase over last year’s spending during the first night of Town Meeting on Monday, April 7. The approved FY 2015 budget increase to just under $116 million will pay for rising health insurance and retirement costs for town employees; help to fund the school’s out-of-district special education costs, and pay for contractual salary increases. It will be funded with a 2.5 percent tax levy increase.
Town manager Julian M. Suso and finance director Jennifer Petit presented an overview of the budget and led Town Meeting members through each of the 327 line items. Just under 30 minutes after the budget passed, Precinct One member Richard K. Latimer, Prospect Street, said the decision to eliminate the town’s affirmative action coordinator position, a $43,000 savings, was left unanswered. Earlier on, Town Meeting members discussed briefly whether the proposed staff cut is legal and fair. Town moderator David T. Vieira allowed a motion to reconsider.
“There was considerable debate on eliminating the position, and we left it dangling. I just wanted to provide a procedural safeguard to make sure we have the option to reconsider. We don’t want to be caught in a position where we were supposed to provide funds for the job,” Mr. Latimer said.
Mr. Suso said he was looking for “opportunities to consolidate town positions to save money” and recommended eliminating the vacant position. This position serves both the town and school employees, but he said both town and school staff have appropriate employees with the expertise to assume the duties.
George R. Spivey of Central Avenue, East Falmouth, retired from the position as the equity/affirmative action officer of Falmouth on August 31, a position he held for 14 years.
As affirmative action officer, Mr. Spivey’s role was to provide support to individuals who had experienced injustice. Mr. Spivey said part of his job was to address people who had been victimized.
Some Town Meeting members expressed concern that town employees would lose neutrality if they had to bring their complaints to their human resources director as opposed to a neutral party.
Andrew V. Putnam of East Falmouth said he thought the position was created more than 20 years ago after a court mandated the town to hire a dedicated affirmative action officer.
Mr. Suso said he did not think that was the case, but would ask the town counsel to look into it and bring any new information to the next night of Town Meeting.
Another line item that spurred debate was a request for $12,000 for the West Falmouth Library. A handful of West Falmouth residents proposed to increase the funding to $19,313, which is the amount earmarked in the budget for the Woods Hole Library. West Falmouth Library advocates have asked for several years for more town funding.
“We are just looking for some parity with Woods Hole,” said former West Falmouth library board member Charles T. McCaffrey, Precinct 5.
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The amendment to add an additional $7,313 to the West Falmouth Library line item passed with a vote of 121 to 73.
“This is the first time in 16 years that is passed,” said town moderator David T. Vieira.
The budget also creates and funds a water stabilization fund of $500,000 from free cash, and creates and funds a special education out-of-district tuition fund for $800,000, most of which will be transferred from the health insurance stabilization fund. It also replenishes by over $1 million each the capital improvement stabilization fund and the general stabilization fund. The wind turbine reserve account gets a boost of $300,000.
The budget also creates a new conservation/environmental technician.