May 6, 2012

Fairhaven approves budget, school layoffs


FAIRHAVEN – Eight teachers will be laid off in coming weeks after Town Meeting members passed the school budget as part of the town’s $49 million overall spending plan approved Saturday.

Prior to Town Meeting, School Superintendent Robert Baldwin said the $230,314 increase in the elementary and high school budget from last year would not be sufficient to fund the quality of education Fairhaven residents are accustomed to.

“This is a 2 percent decrease of what we requested,” Baldwin said, who confirmed Saturday evening that all eight layoffs would come from the district’s teaching ranks.

At the meeting Baldwin said his department had come to terms with the cuts, but still had to fend off requests for more cuts from meeting members who preferred initiating fees for extracurricular activities.

“We are on board with the reduction of our budget as it has been proposed,” Baldwin said. “If this is reduced further it will have a devastating impact on class sizes.”

Fairhaven’s unemployment fund was increased to $175,000 in order to compensate for layoffs.

Town Meeting members also voted to move the town’s tourism office into a town-owned space by Jan. 1, despite a recommendation by the Board of Selectmen to allow the office to remain in its current location at 43 Center St. for another year.

Board Chairman Brian Bowcock said the office remaining on Center Street would better facilitate celebration of the town’s bicentennial. He added that the tourism office had already spent a significant amount of money on advertising timed with the town’s bicentennial that included the office’s location, and worried that moving the office would make it inaccessible to visitors.

But Chairman of the Finance Committee John Roderiques argued “the town should not be paying rent for a town office when there is available space in town to house that office without paying rent.”

Consideration of an article by Windwise to put a moratorium on all future wind projects in the town was indefinitely postponed following a presentation by the town’s lawyer asserting that any vote in favor of the moratorium would not hold up under state law.

“The problem with this article is not the substance of the issue but the procedure,” town attorney Thomas Crotty said. “Moratoriums need to go through the Planning Board, which needs to have a public hearing process. Otherwise it would be turned down by the state attorney general.”

Postponing a decision on the moratorium came despite testimony from town Board of Health member Barbara Acksen, who supported the moratorium.

“What we are hearing from members of the Environmental Protection Agency is that the best practices are to allow monitoring and evaluation of the sound and effects of the turbines,” she said. “We have a complaint form for folks to fill out if they have problems and we are getting more information about them, but we need the time to process this before we set up more projects.”

During the lengthy session at Hastings Middle School voters disposed of 15 articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant and another 53 articles on the regular Town Meeting warrant.

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