Springfield adopts $10.3 million budget
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 31,2013
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield voters will decide the fate of a $10.3 million town budget, which if passed would represent a 3 percent increase in property taxes.
The Springfield Select Board adopted the 2013-2014 budget Tuesday evening after agreeing with many of the suggestions of the town’s budget advisory group. The budget is up $247,500, and includes $50,000 toward raises for the town’s employees, who are still in negotiations.
But much of the final budget discussion Tuesday night centered on whether to include $50,000 in the town’s capital budget to help fund the Springfield Regional Development Corp. and Springfield On The Move.
The town has funded both organizations for years, and most years has included $30,000 directly in the capital budget for the regional development group and $20,000 for the downtown redevelopment group. The downtown group for a couple of years was listed as a special appropriation.
But Select Board member David Yesman read the town charter again late last week and discovered that the town budget is not the place for such funding requests.
On a 3-2 vote decided by Chairman Kristi Morris, the two groups’ funding requests were stripped from the capital budget. Instead, they will appear as individual articles on the town warning, asking for voter support.
Morris said he didn’t like the “eleventh hour” nature of the change, especially since the two organizations, particularly the development group, had been included directly in the town budget for at least 20 years.
But Morris, noting that “precision” was very important to him in his work, said following the town charter was more important than immediate tradition.
Morris said that he and Town Manager Robert Forguites had consulted with Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda on Monday about the town charter language, and Ankuda advised the board that the two organizations, since they were not town departments, did not belong in the operating budget.
Bob Flint, executive director of the regional development group, suggested that the capital budget was not the same as the operating budget, but that suggestion went nowhere.
Voting to keep the two groups out of the town budget were Morris, Yesman and Select Board member Michael Knoras. Voting to include them in the budget were Select Board members Stephanie Gibson and Peter MacGillivray.
Yesman and Knoras took pains to say they supported both groups and that they would urge townspeople to vote the special appropriation.
Afterward, Flint said he only learned about the town charter provision during the meeting and said he was surprised by the change.
“We appreciate the support by the board,” Flint said, noting that the combined town appropriation of $50,000 toward economic re-development was “less than the cost of one person.”
The budget includes $400,000 capital expenditure toward paving and marks the elimination of the town’s vacant public works director’s job. The budget includes $315,000 toward new equipment in the public works department.
Forguites said that since the retirement of Harry Henderson, the public works director, Jeff Strong, the water and sewer superintendent, had taken over both responsibilities and was doing just fine. Forguites said the two positions had actually been one until recent years.
Requests for additional staffing by both the police and fire departments were rejected by both the budget committee and the Select Board.