A 2012 vote binds Rindge to a new fiscal year

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.


    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Rindge Select Board held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed 18-month budget, which will be voted on in March.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

RINDGE — The Select Board apologized to voters at the town’s budget hearing Wednesday, saying they were unaware until a few weeks ago that the approval of a 2012 warrant article to change the town’s fiscal year locked them into an 18-month budget for 2013-14.

“We thought we could present an 18-month budget and if it didn’t pass we’d have a 12-month default budget,” said Select Board member Sam Seppala, noting that he believed the fiscal year conversion was something the town could explore without a commitment. “We’re sorry. I’m sure there were a lot of people under the impression that we had two options.”

But after consulting with the town’s auditor last month, the selectmen said they learned a 12-month default budget would be in violation of state statute and that they were bound to the fiscal year conversion in 2013.

Select Board member Roberta Oeser, who served on the town’s Budget Advisory Committee last year, said the committee thought there would be a transitional period and that an 18-month budget wasn’t a sure thing. “There was no intentional misleading done,” she said.

The 2012 warrant article asked voters, “Shall the town vote to change from a calendar year budget to an optional fiscal year budget (July 1 to June 30) and, in order to do so, bring forward an 18-month budget at next year’s Town Meeting?”

Because the warrant was approved by a 60 percent majority vote, Select Board Chair Jed Brummer said the town received the necessary voter support and, with that, the change from a calendar to a fiscal year budget took effect.

If the proposed 18-month operating budget of $5.4 million does not pass this March, Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini said the town will operate on an 18-month default budget of $5.5 million. Rindge’s 18-month budget starts Jan. 1 and ends on June 30, 2014, when the town will resume budgeting for just 12 months.

Despite the budgetary challenges faced by the town as it undergoes the transition, Pini said realigning Rindge’s current fiscal year with the state’s will be an advantage. Because the state does not finalize its budget until June, Pini said unanticipated cuts can place undue financial hardship on the town, which is already six months into its fiscal year.

In order to spread out the foreseeable impact that the fiscal year conversion will have on taxpayers, selectmen will put forth a warrant article in March to finance six additional months of expenses with a five-year bond. The warrant article will need a 60 percent vote in favor of the proposal at Town Meeting for the article to be approved. If voters reject the article, town officials said residents will pay a significantly larger property tax bill this December.

Wednesday, the Select Board held two public hearings: one on the proposed $1 million bond, and a second on the proposed 2013-14 operating budget and warrant articles. The board voted to continue both hearings until Jan. 16, when it will welcome additional comment from voters.

Resident Richard Mellor told town officials that he was in full support of the option to bond six additional months of town expenses opposed to a one-time payment in December that would negatively impact mortgage escrows due to property tax increases.

The one-time payment would include only the town’s portion of half a year’s property taxes. On a $200,000 house with $4,926 in property taxes, the resident would make a one-time payment of approximately $418.71 to fund the fiscal year conversion, Pini said. But if voters approve the bond, Pini said a home assessed at $200,000 would incur a yearly additional payment of approximately $80 for five years and mortgage escrows would be unaffected.

While the town had discussed a $5.5 million proposed operating budget in December, Pini said Wednesday that town officials have worked hard to find $100,000 in reductions and present an 18-month budget that is 1.5 times the 2012 budget, or $5,424,329. In March 2012, the town approved a $3.6 million budget, after having operated on a default budget from 2008 to 2011.

Included in the most recent budget reductions was the board’s decision to not rejoin the Southwest Regional Planning Commission, a $7,500 reduction in the town’s legal budget and cuts to the Police Department.

Police will seek alternative funding for an approximately $4,500 radio and will not replace the chief’s cruiser in the next 18 months as previously proposed.

The decision to cut approximately $6,000 to fund the town’s Southwest Regional Planning Commission membership garnered the most debate Wednesday night, when members of the town’s Energy Commission and Planning Board asked the Select Board to reconsider the move. The last time the town paid dues to the regional commission was in June 2008, according to Pini.

Pat Martin, Rindge resident and member of the town’s Energy Commission, said the opportunities to start a regional co-operative aimed at reducing town energy costs could be done with the help of Southwest Regional Planning Commission. Expanding broadband coverage is also a regional issue that needs further exploration, she said.

Planning Board Vice-Chair Kim McCummings said the town needs regional representation in order to effectively move forward with plans for economic development, particularly at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection.

Pini suggested a warrant article asking voters to fund the commission’s membership dues, but some residents disagreed, saying few voters would have a full understanding of the topic and its importance to cast an informed vote.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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