Voters pass town budget; school spending in limbo
SHARON — Only the Board of Selectmen’s budget for 2023-24 was considered and approved by voters at the Friday, May 12 meeting.
Immediately after moderator Patricia Chamberlain convened the meeting, it was announced that the Board of Education budget would not be considered.
Although the Board of Education budget had received required approval from the Board of Finance, that approval had conditions attached to it, leading the town’s attorney, Randall DiBella of Cramer and Anderson, to conclude that the finance board’s conditional approval was invalid. Therefore, the Board of Education budget could not be brought before the town’s voters at the town meeting.
Meeting soon after the close of the town meeting when ordinarily the mill rate would have been set, the finance board decided to discuss the Board of Education budget proposal at their meeting on Tuesday, May 16, when they would also hear an explanation of the state’s Minimum Budget Requirement and how it relates to the Board of Education budget.
When the Board of Finance approves a Board of Education budget proposal for 2023-24, another town meeting will be scheduled to vote on that budget.
Discussion of the selectmen’s budget led to a vote to reduce the Parks and Recreation budget by $5,000 earmarked for summer jobs as an expense not needed for this coming year. Voters approved acceptance of various state and federal funds and authorized expected expenditures, including the purchase of a new town truck from the Equipment Replacement Fund.
The amount approved for municipal spending was $4,705,577, an increase of $282,430.
In a separate vote, the five-year capital expenditure plan was approved at the meeting. In addition to clarification about the status of the town debt, residents also sought clarification on items within the five-year plan and learned that projects must be included on the plan in order for the town to pursue grant funding to cover them. Listed projects will still need to go through the public hearing and town meeting process in order to be approved.
Voters also approved the town applying for a federal Department of Agriculture grant for a water system project with an estimated cost $1.3 million. Under the direction of the Sewer and Water Commission, the project would replace aged water lines where they pass under state roads. Consideration is ongoing, but the deadline for the grant application is May 30, requiring the approval by voters at the town meeting.