Town Meeting gets underway Monday night, May 5, and residents will be asked to vote on a wide range of articles. Among them is the proposed $55.35 million town budget for the coming year.
The new budget, as approved by the Bourne Board of Selectmen, includes a number of eliminations and reductions of town positions. Several of those positions include an assistant fire chief, a police lieutenant, and lifeguards at all but two of the town’s beaches.
“I think the voters will understand that it’s tight, and it’s not the budget we would put forward in an optimal world,” town administrator Thomas M. Guerino said.
Mr. Guerino added that he considers this to be a “mark time budget,” in essence one that will continue to see the town through the continued downturn in the economy. He said that it does not take care of all the things the town needs to take care of as far as providing services to the town, but it “covers the bases” and he is confident that residents will pass it as presented.
The coming year’s budget includes nearly $20.9 million for the school department. A number of layoffs and reductions were necessary for the school department to reach its final figure. The high school will lose a guidance counselor and two teachers, and a fine arts teacher will be reduced to part time. A learning coach, a special education teacher, and four full-time classroom aides will be eliminated in the elementary schools.
There are a total of 24 articles on the warrant for Annual Town Meeting and eight on the Special Town Meeting warrant. Mr. Guerino said that he considers the warrants for both to be “pretty straightforward” and “perfunctory.”
Town moderator Robert W. Parady said that addressing all the articles on both warrants will stretch into two nights because of both the number of articles and the amount of discussion and debate that will be generated. He added that he does not expect it to be pushed into a third night.
Both Mr. Guerino and Mr. Parady said they expect Article 24 of the Annual Town Meeting to be hotly debated. Article 24 requests $250,000 for the group that is looking to turn the former Eleanor F. Hoxie Elementary School into the Hoxie Center at Sagamore Beach for Art, Science, Education and Culture. The group told the Bourne Finance Committee last month that the funding is needed as seed money to get their project underway, and without it, the project is “dead in the water.”
Finance committee member William F. Grant has been the project’s biggest critic. At a committee meeting Monday night, Mr. Grant continued to attack the group’s business plan, calling it unrealistic. Fellow members Mary Jane Mastrangelo and Judith A. Conron took opposing views, calling the $250,000 request “a good gamble.”
Mr. Parady said that Article 19, a request for the town to petition the state for release from membership in the Cape Cod Commission, is likely to ignite a lot of debate. Mr. Parady said that his first inclination was to strictly limit the discussion, but he has already heard from half a dozen people who want to speak on the issue. He said the opinion on the article from those who approached him was split 50-50.
“I’ll give it normal debate. Then, if it’s not winding down or someone doesn’t move the question in a reasonable time, I will attempt to wind it down,” he said.
Article 15 asks voters to amend the town’s zoning regulations to accommodate new federal floodplain regulations and maps. Congress mandated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency create new flood zone maps for all developed coastal communities across the country. The new maps, and zoning language specifically required by FEMA, have to be approved at Town Meeting. If the maps are not adopted, Bourne residents will not be able to buy federal flood insurance at any price. Without flood insurance, no one in a flood zone will be able to get or keep a mortgage. Also, if a flood disaster is declared, residents, as well as the town, would not be eligible for federal disaster relief benefits.
There are eight articles on the warrant for Special Town Meeting, and two are most likely to spark debate, Mr. Parady said. Article 4 requests an additional $975,000 for construction of the new Department of Public Works facility in Bournedale. The money will pay for perimeter fencing, a canopy on the rear of the building to protect DPW equipment parked outside, a fuel island for two 10,000 gallon gasoline tanks, and a security camera system.
Article 8 of the Special Town Meeting warrant requests a change in the zoning in South Sagamore at the corner of Adams Street and Cranberry Highway. The change would move the line separating the business and residential zones. One of the properties that would fall into the business zone is owned by Jean M. Michienzi, mother of developer Vincent P. Michienzi. The posting for a public hearing on this article during last week’s Bourne Planning Board meeting did not include Ms. Michienzi among the property owners who would be affected by the zoning change. Selectmen requested an opinion from town counsel Robert S. Troy as to the legality of this article and whether it should be indefinitely postponed. Mr. Troy said that there is no requirement under state statute to include the names of property owners in zoning hearing notices.