The Select Board Tackles More Proposed FY 24 Budgets

Holliston’s Select Board got down to business at 7:00pm on Monday, January 30, 2023.  Chair Ben Sparrell set the tone by promising a familiar (proposed budget reviews) agenda for those in attendance.

FY2024 Budget Reviews:

  • Technology (01155) = $323,030 (+ 3.02%)

Technology Director Chris Meo (above left) provided an overview of the Tech Department’s proposed FY 24 budget.  He highlighted the number of Zoom sessions (1,001) so far, this fiscal year with nearly 18,000 participants!

  • Veterans District (01543) = $97,207 (+2.9%)
  • Facilities (01422) = $314,990 (+ 10.44%)

Facilities Manager James Keast (above left) noted the impending rise in electricity generation rates that will impact the Town’s budget as of January 2024.  This electricity cost increase will impact all Town facilities.  At an upcoming meeting of the Select Board and School Committee Chairs, Mr. Keast, Mr. Ahern, and Superintendent Kustka, school facilities needs will be discussed.

Mr. Keast also presented the Wastewater Treatment budget below.

  • Wastewater Treatment (01440) = $108,125 (+10.67%)
  • Liability Insurance (01945) = $391,719 (+16.47%) * Mr. Ahern sees the potential for a lower cost for the final May budget proposal.

The Board unanimously approved the above proposed FY 24 budgets.

  • Review Revenue Assumptions:

Mr. Ahern shared the current revenue projections for FY 24.  The FY 24 General Fund total (excluding Water and Other categories) is projected to be $72,535,800, an increase of 3.68%.

Public Comment:  There was no Public Comment from members of the Board or Public during this meeting.

Warrants: The Board unanimously approved the weekly warrants totaling -> $2,124,030.76

Comments from Town Administrator:  Mr. Ahern shared the following with the Board:

  • ARPA – Project Balance Update (as of 12/31/22)

Track the detailed ARPA funds allocation here ->

  • Response to Previous Public Comment – Andy Reseska asked two questions of the Board at the Jan 23, 2023  meeting that Mr. Ahern promised to follow up.
    • Review of Hopkinton Economic Recovery Grant – Hopkinton did allocate up to $100,000 of ARPA funds to help small businesses (< 15 employees) offering $5,000 to qualifying businesses.  The program is administered through town offices.  Mr. Ahern will continue to explore how / if this type of program is needed in Holliston and how it might be administered by a third-party fiduciary.
    • Review of AgCom correspondence – The recent AgCom survey of local farms confirmed the need for an AgCom.  Mr. Ahern presented the Board with a draft letter back to the farms summarizing the results and inviting new full or associate members to join the AgCom.
  • The next OPEB Trust meeting will be February 7, 2023, at 5:30pm.
  • The option for the Town to buy-in to Medicare Part A for retirees is not feasible his year.  Work will continue to make this option available in the future.
  • Keefe Tech is asking its school districts to add an article to the Town Meeting Warrant to create a Capital Expense like fund to support Keefe Tech.
  • An update on the Town’s Solar project is expected at next week’s Select Board meeting.

Board Business:  The Board took the following actions:

  • Review Performance Evaluation of Town Administrator – Chair Sparrell summarized Mr. Ahern’s recent performance review.  His rating was Exceeds Expectations in two areas and Meets Expectations in the third area.  Paraphrasing the Board’s comments, “he is a tremendous asset to the Town, he is succeeding in efforts to modernize departments, he is responsive to all questions, he is a talented Town Administrator who has performance potential to take on additional responsibilities, the work never lets up and he keeps up (or ahead) of the work.”  His recent new contract demonstrates the Town’s appreciation for Mr. Ahern’s contribution to our community.

Mr. Ahern thanked the Board for its feedback and looks forward to continuing his relationship with Holliston.

  • Approved Annual Licenses for Commercial properties that abut the Rail Trail and encroach on the Town property.  The terms of the property grant from CSX Railway does not allow such licensing for residential properties.
  • Authorized Mr. Ahern to execute a contract with BerryDunn for a ten-month engagement to develop a Town-Wide Strategic Plan with a cost not to exceed $113,200.
  • Approved the minutes from the December 12, 2022, meeting.

 Other Business:

  • Mr. Sparrell is working with the Upper Charles Climate Action (UCCA) group to get a meeting with the group on an upcoming agenda.
  • Mrs. Hein wondered if the online training modules licensed by the Town for employee professional development might be offered to elected and appointed Board / Committee members as an incentive to volunteer for public service.

Mr. Sparrell invited all to attend his monthly Select Chat, this Friday at 9:30am. The session takes place at the Senior Center and is open to everyone – snacks are provided.

The meeting adjourned at 8:28pm with the reminder that more budget reviews will be on next week’s agenda. Stay warm this weekend!

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Chris Cain