Falmouth Town Meetin, June 22, 2020

Paul Sellers speaks in support of funding the police department.

When Town Meeting member Paul Sellers spoke at Town Meeting, he introduced himself as from the 38-yard line.

The joke acknowledged the unusual nature of Falmouth Town Meeting, as 179 Town Meeting members gathered at the artificial turf field at Falmouth High School for a truncated meeting on Monday, June 22.

Chairs were spaced six feet apart on the football field, and all in attendance wore a mask or bandanna. Though most wore basic blue, white or black masks, some members donned patterned or rainbow masks, while Town Planner Thomas Bott wore a mask identifying him as Town Planner Thomas Bott. Many members donned hats to protect themselves from the evening sun. One person brought an umbrella.

Though there were 49 articles on the April Town Meeting warrant, the body only addressed the seven Fiscal Year 2021 articles on Monday night. This included appropriating $139,315,499 for the FY 21 operating budget, $84,000 more than the recommended figure of $139,231,499. This additional $84,000, appropriated from certified free cash, will be used to hire an affirmative action outreach coordinator.

“We feel we can fund the ‘21 budget without a cut in services,” Director of Finance Jennifer Mullen said.

This is despite a projected $3,012,260 reduction in revenue. The town is offsetting that cost by not funding its reserve accounts for one year, reducing its health insurance budget by $500,000 and reducing the projected Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School budget by $350,000. In addition, the town will inject $500,000 in free cash into the operating budget.

“I didn’t start out this presentation with re-occurring revenues for re-occurring expenses and one-time revenues for one-time expenses, but that does still drive what we’re doing,” Ms. Mullen said. “When we see a downturn like this, and this happened all of a sudden, as you know, we are using those funds to fund the budget. We will look and keep and eye on it, and we will look at [FY 2022], but we won’t always be using free cash. Free cash is just for the one year, and we will get back to funding our reserves in the next fiscal year.”

The FY 2021 budget includes an additional $1.2 million for the Falmouth public schools, two additional firefighters, two police officers, additional staff for the new Falmouth Senior Center, increased hours at the Falmouth Public Library, a new employee within the finance department and a clerical position within the health department.

“If we needed that in March, we definitely need it now,” Ms. Mullen said. “They’ve been busy.”

Though the majority of the budget discussion was dedicated to the police department budget and hiring an affirmative action outreach coordinator, Melissa C. Freitag of Precinct Six asked about the $81,700 election budget.

“I’m wondering, if in light of COVID and the potential for many, many more mail-in ballots, potentially with postage going out and postage coming in, if there is going to be an adjustment to the budget item coming from town hall,” Ms. Freitag said. “Will this be sufficient?”

Ms. Mullen said the town is “very well prepared” for mail-in ballots for upcoming elections.

Town Meeting members also transferred $500,000 from free cash into the debt stabilization fund; appropriated $300,000 into the wage settlement account; authorized revolving funds for the Emerald House, recreation department, historical commission, shellfish propagation, shellfish and aquaculture, and senior services; appropriated $120,000 for FY 21 community preservation committee administration expenses; and fixed the salaries of elected officials.

Elected official salaries are $5,000 for select board members, $6,000 for the chairwoman of the select board, $1,500 for the town moderator and $94,440 for the town clerk.

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