PLYMPTON — The Plympton Finance Committee recommended and the Board of Selectmen voted “yes” on an $11,280,185 budget for fiscal year 2020, representing an overall increase of 3.5% over last year at a somewhat abbreviated Selectmen’s meeting, Monday, April 22. Selectmen voted on all Annual and Special Town Meeting articles after hearing the finance committee’s recommendations.
The largest portion of the total budget is by far the school budget.
School costs are up an overall 4.7%, with the largest portion of the $6,160,582 proposed budget – up from $5,884,103 last year – going to the Dennett Elementary School and to associated special education costs for Plympton students both local and those placed out-of-district. This is followed by the regional school assessment, which is up 6.5% from $2,174,763 last year to $2,316,518 this year.
The general government section of the proposed budget is up 27.9% from last year, from $58,868 to $75,274. The planning board budget went down by about 67%, from $1,500 to $500. The largest increase in the section was for the Finance Committee itself, which increased its own budget by $300 from $1,500 to $1,800, or 20%.
The remainder of the general government increase was with the Council on Aging. The program itself is level funded, but they requested a large increase in the director’s stipend – from $7,500 to $10,000, or about 33% – which was reduced to only 2.3%, or a $170 increase from the previous year.
The Council on Aging support staff line item increased by 4.4% because driver hours are increasing.
The Fire Chief’s salary has been brought more into line with neighboring communities, from $80,000 to $104,250, or about 30% but the overall fire budget is up only 2.7%, from $652,499 to $670,250, with many line items seeing cuts, including lines for EMS medical supplies and Fire/EMS equipment and repair.
The Police Chief’s salary was cut by 3.4% which balances out a tight budget that sees an increase from $1,060,744 to $1,100,140 in a year with the move from the old to the new police station. Utilities for the new station were estimated to be $24,000 for the year.
The all-encompassing Selectmen’s department budget, including everything from computer maintenance to building maintenance, is up 10.5%. Selectmen themselves will each take a $1 stipend, level-funded as last year, but the Selectmen’s Assistant and the Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy will each see a raise of 4.3%.
The “Town Buildings” and “Building Supplies” line items have been separated, to avoid confusion and better keep track of where money is being spent, an idea of Dennehy’s, which is repeated throughout the budget document. Custodial services will see a proposed increase of about 30% to $23,035 because of the addition of the police station.
Payments to town counsel are expected to be up 20%, topping $60,000 from $50,000 last year.
A decrease in the number of elections during the coming fiscal year will lead to a decrease in the Town Clerk’s department budget, which is down from $96,437 to $87,227 or 9.6% overall.
The total accountant, tax and treasurer’s department budget is up by 5%.
Selectmen signed new employment agreements with the Town Accountant and Treasurer/Collector, both with 4.3% salary increases reflected in the budget.
The Board of Health’s budget is up 4% from $40,237 to $41,866, level-funded except for the modest wage increase for the office’s administrative assistant. This is the same increase seen by many Town House employees.
In the public works buget, the ice and snow budget line item remains level-funded at $60,000, despite the fact that the Selectmen had to declare an ice and snow emergency this winter, early in the season, to cover costs for cleanup associated with the minor storms that occurred.
Also, in that section, the Highway Superintendent’s wage did not increase by 4.3%, as many other positions, as requested. It was increased by only $60 from last fiscal year, or about 0.1%. Despite an 18.5% increase in the “Equipment and Maintenance” line item, the public works budget overall is rose only 1.9%.
The building department budget is up 13.8%, from $87,151 to $99,190. The department’s administrative assistant will see an increase in hours, which represents about half of the increase.
The library is in line for a 2.9% increase. Their budget is relatively small, with a request of $153,712 up from $149,367 last year.
Selectman Mark Russo thanked Dennehy and the Finance Committee for all their hard work throughout the budget season thus far and the rest of the Selectmen concurred.
In other Selectmen’s news:
• Emergency medical services will now be billed by a Cambridge-based company, ProEMS Solutions. The town is changing from its 18-year EMS billing provider, Comstar. All bidders on the proposal came in at the same dollar amount, according to Fire Chief Stephen Silva, and selectmen deferred to his judgement in terms of why he thinks ProEMS Solutions will be better for the town than Comstar.
• The next regularly scheduled Selectmen’s meeting will be on Monday, May 6, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room of Town House.