If residents at the October 28 Special Town Meeting reject amending the FY 2020 budget to pay newly appointed town administrator Anthony E. Schiavi, the town still has ways to pay him.
The board of selectmen and the finance committee met in joint session Monday, October 7. At that meeting, acting town administrator Glenn D. Cannon suggested a couple of scenarios by which Mr. Schiavi’s salary could be paid.
One scenario was with departmental turnbacks at the end of the current fiscal year. Turnbacks are budgeted funds that are not used by a department. At the end of the fiscal year, any money budgeted for a department is turned back for use in the town’s general fund.
“We are confident there will be turnbacks,” Mr. Cannon said. “There are every single year.”
Article 3 of the Special Town Meeting warrant seeks to amend the current budget by $188,000. Included in that amount is $127,500 to pay Mr. Schiavi.
The funding is needed because the money for the 12 months of the town administrator’s salary that was in the budget residents approved at Annual Town Meeting in May is going to former town administrator Thomas M. Guerino.
The final nine months of the money is severance pay, contractually obligated as part of the town’s separation agreement with Mr. Guerino.
Mr. Cannon said that if the turnback scenario is not approved by the selectmen of the finance committee, there would then be a deficiency in the town’s accounts. That deficiency would be covered by the state Department of Revenue when the town’s free cash account is certified next year, he said.
“They would cover the contract amount,” he said. “Before you got your free cash certification, they would take the money right out of there.”
Finance director Erica M. Flemming advised that the town does not want to be in a position of deficit spending as a result of paying the town administrator salary. Ms. Flemming added that the item does not really qualify as a reserve fund transfer because “we already know about this so it’s not unforeseen and necessary.”
“We really should fund this at this meeting,” she said.
Finance committee chairman Mary Jane Mastrangelo asked if the board of selectmen had looked at other funds that could be transferred from other items in the budget. The chairman of the board of selectmen, Judith M. Froman, said the board was not able to identify specific personnel items that could be deferred.
“It has to be appropriate transfers, so we were hesitant to bring it forward to the selectmen, or here,” she said.
Ms. Mastrangelo asked Ms. Flemming if the town’s new growth revenue number had been certified yet. Ms. Flemming said they had not.
Ms. Mastrangelo also asked if new growth is still estimated to be less than anticipated when the budget was passed. Ms. Flemming said that is her understanding.
“So we’re in a situation where we have additional spending, and less revenue from new growth than originally projected,” Ms. Mastrangelo said. “We could be spending $300,000 more in the budget than was originally approved.”
Ms. Flemming reminded both groups that the town administrator salary request in the budget amendment was a one-time expense. She said that funding the expense out of free cash “was not out of the norm.”
Ms. Mastrangelo said that she did not want this situation with Mr. Schiavi’s salary to become the norm for future free-cash expenditures.