Wendell approves 7.6 percent budget increase

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2019 6:03:22 PM

WENDELL — Residents approved all 32 articles at this year’s Annual Town Meeting, allowing funds for the town’s officials and operations, as well as establishing an account for its broadband, expected to go live next year.

All articles take effect during the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Budget

A total of $2,822,692 was voted for the salaries, compensations and expenses for town employees — a 7.6 percent increase over this year’s budget. Last year, this budget increased by 6 percent. Wendell, as is the case with most surrounding communities, spends a large portion of its budget on education, the costs of which have increased in areas like health insurance and special education.

Broadband

Wendell has been working toward creating a town-owned broadband system — legally known as a Municipal Light Plant — under the state’s Last Mile program. The high-speed internet service is not estimated to begin until next year, but several articles anticipating the network’s completion were passed.

Two accounts were created — a Broadband Enterprise Fund and a Broadband Enterprise Capital Stabilization Fund — and residents voted to allow the town’s appropriation of $227,530 for the network’s budget, including routine maintenance, pole rental, administration, insurance and activation.

The town’s Broadband Committee estimates that $203,556 of the $227,530 will be funded via the network’s revenues. User fees were cited as a monthly $38.07 for internet, $20 per month for phone service, with the estimation that half of subscribers will opt for internet only. The rest of the $227,530 will be funded from state Last Mile grant funds or existing funds.

Swift River

The Swift River School, shared between Wendell and New Salem, is planning a complete replacement of exterior windows and doors. The town voted to allow its share of necessary funds, to be expended by the Swift River School Building Committee, for the project. The exact cost will be influenced by whether or not the town is able to secure a grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Residents also voted to allow $5,000 for Wendell’s share of capital expenses at the school. This does not include the replacement of the windows and doors, a price yet to be determined.

Other articles

In addition, the town increased its maximum qualifying income allowance for people applying for a property tax deferral. The current limit of $20,000 is raised to $27,200 for a single individual (not head of household), $34,000 for a head of household and $40,800 for married couples filing a joint income tax return.

Several articles passed at previous town meetings allowed money to be borrowed, but the money is no longer needed for the approved purposes and the amounts have been rescinded, including $278,900 for the library (voted in 2005), $217,526 for town offices (voted in 2005), $10,000 for the Fiske Pond purchase (voted in 2004), $5,000 for the town septic system (voted in 2015), $200,000 for septic repairs and upgrades (voted in 1997) and $13,500 for a Highway Department grader (voted in 1996). This is not money the town has, as it was not borrowed to begin with.

The town will raise or transfer from available funds the following:

■$65,790 to pay down a building construction loan, $11,402 on a Ralph C. Mahar Regional School construction loan, $23,120 on a loan for the town’s front-end loader, $32,385 on a loan for the Highway Department’s sander and plow truck, and $11,700 on the broadband project loan.

■$15,000 for the Reserve Fund.

■$6,000 for independent audit expenses.

■$34,667 for group health insurance.

■$12,000 for tax title expense.

■$5,000 for Fire Department turn-out gear.

■$10,000 for town building repairs.

■$25,000 from the stabilization account and $100,000 to be borrowed for the Highway Department’s backhoe.

■$10,441 for library bills from 2010 through 2018 related to unpaid holiday pay for the library director, and $2,500 for library director transition costs.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.




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