As with much of what people undergo these days given the COVID-19 pandemic, Bourne residents are scheduled to take part in a unique Annual/Special Town Meeting next week.
Attendees will experience an outdoor Town Meeting, gathering Monday evening, June 29, under a tent on the athletic field at Bourne High School. Town Meeting kicks off at 7 PM.
Residents will vote on a truncated warrant that contains only two articles for Special Town Meeting and 12 articles for Annual Town Meeting. Articles expected to gather the most attention are those for the annual budget and one relative to the town’s membership in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Article 2 on the Annual Town Meeting warrant seeks resident approval of a Fiscal Year 2021 general operating budget for the Town of Bourne of $70,373,266. That figure represents a 2.47 percent increase over the current budget. FY 2021 will begin two days later, on July 1.
Of that amount, $23,944,555 would go to the Bourne Public Schools, $10,916,470 would be for public safety (police and fire) and $16,508,908 would be shared costs between the town and the schools.
Free cash as a revenue source for the budget has been reduced by more than $450,000. There are savings of $129,000 with the end of the severance agreement with former town administrator Thomas M. Guerino.
Eliminating an economic development officer position and expenses associated with that position resulted in a $66,000 reduction. The position was created and a salary appropriated, but it was never filled. There is also reduced funding for the Visiting Nurse Association program and the Bourne Food Pantry.
The finance committee plans to offer an amendment to the budget article. The amendment seeks a reduction of $6,800 in the finance committee budget for a recording secretary. That money would be dispersed to the Visiting Nurse Association ($4,000) and the food pantry ($2,800).
Article 12 of the Annual Town Meeting warrant is a citizens’ petition that asks if residents will vote in favor of the town withdrawing its membership in the MBTA. Advocates believe the $40,000 a year the town spends on membership is wasteful spending because joining the MBTA was based on the promise of commuter rail coming to Bourne.
The agency has no plans to extend commuter rail to Bourne, the petitioners argue.
Town Counsel Robert S. Troy has advised that Massachusetts state law does not provide a means by which a city or town can withdraw from the MBTA. Mr. Troy said the only mechanism state law provides municipalities is joining the MBTA.
“There is no statutory authority to permit the town to place a question to withdraw from the MBTA on the ballot,” he said.
Mr. Troy said residents at Town Meeting could approve having the board of selectmen file special legislation that would allow for withdrawal “on terms and conditions set forth in its petition to the general court.” He added that the petitioners could also submit a private petition seeking to have a nonbinding question placed on a ballot.
Based on the advice of Mr. Troy, the finance committee voted to recommend defeat of Article 12.
Also on the Annual Town Meeting warrant is Article 1, an article that seeks resident consent for a number of motions all having to do with town operations. Typically these would be voted on as separate articles, but they are being lumped together to reduce the amount of time Town Meeting takes place given coronavirus concerns.
Article 1 asks residents to approve the following: town officials entering into contracts with federal and state government; elected officials’ salaries; acceptance of Chapter 90 funds from the state; raising and appropriating or transferring from available funds $351,900 to establish the finance committee reserve fund; placing money in eight town revolving funds; transferring money received from Integrated Solid Waste Management host community fees in excess of $600,000 to the capital expenditure stabilization fund; and using $150,000 in free cash to pay contractual compensated absences accrued by retired town employees.
Article 3 seeks $1,206,411 to operate the sewer department.
Article 4 requests $10,476,805 for operation of the ISWM enterprise fund. ISWM is a self-funding operation that does not require property tax revenue from the town.
Article 5 seeks $481,000 for capital outlay projects. Projects include roof repairs at the Buzzards Bay fire station, Pocasset River Marina dredging, new pumps and alarms for the sewer department, and safety upgrades for the sewer department.
Article 6 is a motion to hear reports and recommendations of committees and town officers.
Article 7 moves that several previous articles be closed out as completed and $250,000 in unused funds from those closed-out articles be transferred to other town funds.
Article 8 seeks $1,142,995 in Community Preservation Act funds for projects approved by the Bourne Community Preservation Committee.
Article 9 asks approval of $75,000 for the administrative and operating expenses of the community preservation committee.
Article 10 requests $10,000 in free cash be placed in the town’s stabilization fund.
Article 11 moves that the town accept a section of state law to establish a special revenue fund dedicated to operations of Bourne Community Access Television.
The Special Town Meeting warrant contains two articles.
Article 1 asks residents to approve spending $340,000 from the open-space reserves of the Community Preservation Fund to acquire 6.3 acres of land fronting the Back River. The land provides recreational access to the river, and the purchase helps protect an environmentally sensitive area.
Article 2 moves that the town appropriate $4,241 from free cash to pay unpaid bills. The bills arrived at Town Hall after the close of the previous fiscal year.
Town Meeting kicks off Monday, June 29, at 7 PM under a tent on Jackson Field at Bourne High School.