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Falmouth Finance Committee begins annual budget work  

Ms. Petit said the special counsel budget has not been funded realistically, having exceeded its appropriations because of labor negotiations, arbitrating the firefighters’ contract and paying for wind turbine litigation the last few years. “As long as the windmills are alive and well, that line item is not going to decrease,” she said. The FY2015 budget included $125,000 to special counsel. In November, the town appropriated $278,000 more to cover wind turbine litigation projected to cost $175,000. To date, $154,000 has been spent. Ms. Petit said this year’s line item was increased by $25,000.

Credit:  CARRIE L. GENTILE | The Enterprise | February 6, 2015 | www.capenews.net ~~

Falmouth Finance Committee began fine-tuning the yearly operating budget this week ahead of the Annual Town Meeting.

So far the only change committee members proposed was to increase the recreation budget by $6,000 based on a request by recreation director Helen E. Kennedy to pay for custodial services when her department uses school facilities.

“We’re funding budgets more realistically than we have in the past. A few years ago, we had to rely on reserve funds,” said chairman Judith P. Magnani.

Committee member Susan P. Smith echoed her sentiment.

“Not only that, but we’ve worked at length with department heads on staying ahead and budgeting for what might happen,” she said.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2016 $119 million budget calls for an increase of 2.62 percent over last year to accommodate growing health insurance rates, employee benefits, workers compensation and property and liability insurance. The increase will be paid for with additional revenues to offset debt, allowing the budget to live within the proposition 2 1/2.

The 10 percent employee health insurance increase is three percent higher than what was budgeted for, but finance director Jennifer Petit is confident her proposed seven percent increase, combined with unspent funds in the health insurance account, will suffice.

The town is combining the two municipal departments of treasurer and collector, but the savings will not be realized until next year.

Town collector Patricia O’Connell was confirmed to the newly created post of town treasurer and collector this week. Ms. Petit said they are paying for a software consultant and are amidst a reorganization, but any of the unspent combined $580,000 budget will be placed in free cash.

The discussion on moving the town counsel office and all the paper files from Locust Street to Town Hall sparked a discussion of investing in a town archive.

Town manager Julian M. Suso said he tried to solve the problem of inadequate space at Town Hall to accommodate all departments’ records by purchasing 65 Town Hall Square, which Town Meeting denied in November. The town’s human services department is housed there.

“I’ll argue to the death that it is cheaper to own it than to pay rent,” said Ms. Smith.
Committee member Megan English Braga suggested looking into electronically scanning data so the town does not run out of room.

Mr. Suso agreed, but said it requires a cultural change for some who are less than comfortable with technology.

Space in a “less heavily used program space” in the Gus Canty Community Center and the Edward Marks Building are also being considered to store municipally related documents.

Ms. Magnani said she supports looking into a town archive system.

Ms. Petit said the special counsel budget has not been funded realistically, having exceeded its appropriations because of labor negotiations, arbitrating the firefighters’ contract and paying for wind turbine litigation the last few years.

“As long as the windmills are alive and well, that line item is not going to decrease,” she said.

The FY2015 budget included $125,000 to special counsel. In November, the town appropriated $278,000 more to cover wind turbine litigation projected to cost $175,000. To date, $154,000 has been spent. Ms. Petit said this year’s line item was increased by $25,000.

The committee continues pouring through the budget next week.

Source:  CARRIE L. GENTILE | The Enterprise | February 6, 2015 | www.capenews.net

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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