Select Board recap 01/22/2024

In attendance: Chair John Cronin, Vice Chair Tina Hein, Clerk Ben Sparrell, Town Administrator Travis Ahern.

Flag Policy Discussion (Continued)

This was discussed at length at the December 18 meeting. You can find the recap here.

John referred to the meeting in his opening statements and reminded people about the Supreme Court Decision regarding flags on town properties.

Travis explored the various options from other towns and the draft (seen below) – John opened Board Comments:

Ben – Comfortable with proposal because it’s important we define this as government speech. I’m also comfortable with the application form. I think this looks good and I appreciate the time put in by Town Counsel and by Travis so thank you.

Tina – I agree with Ben. What was most important was that we defined that the town building flags would be left to the Select Boards discretion and appreciate that there are places where 3rd party public flags can be raised. It does represent a change, but I am all right with this.

John – All policies are subject to future board changes. It is our responsibility to make sure the current policy is in line with the current board’s position. Couple of things: Policy does not apply to utility poles or public schools. We are not here to judge their decisions, but it does apply to all flagpoles on town-owned property. The board has already approved flags at town hall and we will have to accept the March application because they were previously approved.

Travis: The March flying was not approved, only bunting was approved.

John: this seems to be in line with the guidelines laid out by the supreme court.

Motion to approve made by Ben and 2nd by Tina and passed – (do we need to approve the application). Ben amended to approve the application with the guidelines – motion passed.

You can see the policy and the permit draft by double clicking on the images below.

Update on FY2025 Budget Schedule (Departmental Budgets received Friday, Jan. 19, 2024) and Discussion of Budget Review Schedule

Travis: he displayed what is online already and the schedule is available on the appropriations package. The information is there for all committees to submit their budgets including the strategic plan. The packet went out and all departmental packets were received.

The town administrator will provide the Select Board and finance committee will have time to review with the information to be provided not later than March 4th to be reviewed and discussed and to be voted on at the May 13th for Town meeting.

The select board will hold a slightly different schedule than what was done in the past. We had planned a hearing for the water hearing, and we have moved that to February, that’s before the budget meeting on 2/17. The Select Board and finance committee will have opportunity to review.

Bad news recently regarding state aid with the Governors budge. Other department receipts and carryovers are listed. We have other income including revenue and investment returns.
On expenditure side numbers were running a little tight but we’re in line.

We’ll be working on final numbers. With budgets currently received, we are comparing revenue models and requests versus budgets. Our tax levy revenue is lower than what we would expect. We’ve been told by the state that the state legislature s working on numerous factions including Special Education.

We had to get very aggressive to keep a balanced budget in 2025 and while we don’t want to get overly aggressive we’re hoping we’re in line. Solar is also going to play a role, and we’re working on that. We may also be able to consider increasing fees at Pinecrest based on demand.

Keefe Tech enrollment will also play a role in our school budget. Because of a change in 2024 balance we have to make sure that our numbers are in line. The schools and budgets received show that we will be n the red by 1.5 million. We’ll be working with departments regarding budgets before the Select Board meets to discuss these budgets. We are working on bringing our numbers in line for 2025. State funding will also play a role.

John: What is with the cannibal’s revenue? Travis: There is no local revenue that hits local receipts. These are now in stabilization fund. The value of having well-operating cannabis business is now reflected in town revenue from such items such as property taxes. Community impact receipts are no longer expected. It is now reflected in new growth which is reflected in our budget.

Is the Governor’s budget … when is this going to be available? Travis: Next week.

While we’re excited about what might be coming, we need to temper our enthusiasm so we know what we can expect when we get it.

Tina: We have listed budgets are these level or are they decreased/increased. Welcome back from Paternity leaved – if this is level service do we have a way to deal with decreases in service?

Travis: We don’t expect this to be a problem going forward because we have made progress going forward. We can adjust as needed but we do not expect to see a decrease in services. Some of the bigger things’ electricity, etc. we will be flexible to adjust down in some cases.  We know there are some things which will require cutting. There is nothing new, this is aggressive, and we can be creative as possible in maintaining a balanced budget.

Tina: it’s important for people to understand we have a steady hand here and I appreciate the fact you are being proactive in this process.

With no other comments, Chair John moves on to warrants.

Warrants

Ben made a motion to pay the warrants, Tina seconded. Motion passed.

Ben: Reminder: recycling center is open Saturday and Sunday; this is the last Sunday it will be open.

John: for those who have been following the Board regarding the Gulf Station – we have had several conversations and we’ll be meeting with the finance committee. This will be an executive session because we’ve had plenty of public input and at this time this meeting will be next week. W will be discussing property value and forming our opinions on the financial impact.

Comments from the Town Administrator

Echo Tina’s sentiments for everyone who has stepped up to keep things moving in my office while n paternity leave. I was glad to have this time with my family. Thanks to Kathleen and Chief Stone for picking up the slack while I was out.

9 Green Street update: Eversource as able to get the transformer in and we should have an update next week on the EV process. This will allow us to implement the policy on payment for EV charging as well as the greenery to be placed in this area for the spring.

Housing Production Plan (HPP) contractor schedule

Housing production plan is part of the strategic planning. Housing options, particularly affordable, is a concern in Holliston. We’re looking at ways to make this work in Holliston and we have to work on MBTA zoning.

The consultant has walked the town through what this zoning might mean for Holliston and we’re working with various committees, and we’ll be working with various committees and the MBTA to make sure we can implement this once we have a better understanding o the challenges we are facing.

This is exciting and while it took us a couple of rounds to get to this place we’re excited to move forward.

Board Business

Donation to Senior Center $400 from Superette – Motion made by Ben, 2nd by Tina, passed unanimously.

Veterans District Agreement

We paused on this previously because of a date discrepancy. Ben asked that we approve the agreement as presented (Ashland, Holliston, Medway, and Hopkinton). Tina seconded. All approved.

Discuss and potentially vote to approve the Trails Committee grant application, sign landowner authorization form

Ben did not have any information about this request that could be identified.

Tina: This was sent to Tina and Ben.

Ben: there is a lot of information regarding drainpipes on the south side similar to what was done on the north side. The deadline is 2/1 and we’d like to have the SB approved.

Ben made a motion for Travis to sign the grant application for submission. Tina seconded; motion passed.

Other Business

Previous town meeting we had a matching grant request and required property owners to sign off. This would be authorizing the Historic Commission to apply for this grant.  This is primarily to survey historical property in town is to provide information to file with the Mass Historical Society. The chair needs to sign off on this to go forward.

John questioned the need for Board approval since this was approved at the last town meeting. The Board needs to approve the Administrator to approve the grant.

Agreed no motion was needed.

Tina: this board approved $30K for Celebrate Holliston for the 300th. Most committees have come before the board, but we have projects and requests. We have three groups that I know of that are in need of funding and have not come through the board. We need to have a conversation regarding the process.

John: Since Celebrate Holliston is running the event, anyone interested in running something in conjunction with the 300th should be reaching out to them first before coming to the SB for funding.

Reminder to peers: evaluations are due by the 26th and we’re underway with negotiations with public works.

Doreen Martel

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