THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Discussions about upcoming warrant arcticles or anything else related to Town Meeting.

THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby swamper on Sun May 03, 2009 7:14 pm

Tewksbury T.M. promises budget showdown
By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, amayer-hohdahl@lowellsun.com
Updated: 05/03/2009 06:42:13 AM EDT

TEWKSBURY -- After months of number-crunching and direction-setting by town officials, voters are poised to finally get their say on Tewksbury's fiscal future.

The fiscal 2010 budget is bound to be one of the most hotly debated items when annual Town Meeting convenes tomorrow night.

The $76 million financial plan has seen many versions -- the most recent one last week when Town Manager David Cressman recommended adjusting its distribution of pension costs and adding in controversial health-insurance concessions.

If the unions don't vent their frustration before the body -- they object to the inclusion of the $1.1 million in concessions because they haven't agreed to them -- voters can still expect fireworks.

A drawn-out showdown between Tewksbury school leaders and Shawsheen Valley Technical High School officials will likely come to a head on the Town Meeting floor.

School Committee Chairman Richard O'Neill has pledged to put the Shawsheen Tech assessment up for debate. He said he would like to see the vocational school's entire budget lowered.

But Shawsheen Tech Superintendent Charlie Lyons is expected to make an appearance to defend his fiscal plan -- creating the first public encounter between the two men since O'Neill first started questioning the vocational school's policies.

Also among the 37 articles that will be tackled at the annual Town Meeting is a proposal by the School Committee to petition the Legislature for regional
schools such as Shawsheen Tech to be governed by Proposition 2 1/2.

The law currently exempts regional school, water and sewer districts. Article 33 could pave the way for regional schools to be taken out of the mix, effectively hampering their ability to increase assessments to member towns by more than 2.5 percent a year.

Among the more unusual measures that will be taken up at annual Town Meeting is a new bylaw that would govern the public consumption of marijuana.

Police Chief Alfred Donovan submitted Article 31 in the wake of a statewide vote this year to decriminalize possession of less than ounce of marijuana. He notes in the Town Meeting warrant that the new state law did not "address the issue of people smoking marijuana in public." The new bylaw would prohibit the use of marijuana on public property, backed up by a $300 fine.

Voters who participate in the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday will also have a full plate with 23 articles.

It includes the proposal to create a Town Center overlay district. The measure, which has been advocated by the Planning Board since last September, would implement precise new design and construction standards for an area stretching along Main Street from about Old Boston Road to Chandler Street.

Planning officials believe the overlay district could be used to turn the town center into a space that is walkable, user-friendly and attractive to new business, while also encapsulating the town's character.

With an overlay district, the commercial zoning that currently regulates most of the area will still remain in place, making the town center zoning largely optional.

But planning officials believe the new zoning will prove enticing to businesses because it paves the way for mixed-use developments. They also expect the zoning to have a snowball effect once several developers apply it.

A zoning change is also the approach being used to address a controversial church building that galvanized the town last year.

Article 5 at Special Town Meeting would allow some properties to be split even if they then form nonconforming lots. The measure is sponsored in part by members of the Bay State Baptist Church.

The church had proposed almost a year ago to build a new 7,500-square-foot assembly hall at 36 Pine St. But Pine Street residents vociferously opposed the project, mostly because of its proximity to a dangerous bend in the road.

The church leaders agreed to discard the controversial plan, if the town in turn allowed them to split the Pine Street property so it can be resold for more money -- a proposal that has the support of the Pine Street neighborhood.

Planning officials recommended that the measure go before Town Meeting, as some of the town's current bylaws specifically stop properties from being split. They were implemented after a rash of such proposals flooded the town in the 1980s.

Annual Town Meeting begins tomorrow at 8 p.m. Special Town Meeting will follow on Tuesday at 7 p.m., with Annual Town Meeting then reconvening on Wednesday at 8 p.m. All are held at Tewksbury Memorial High School, 320 Pleasant St.
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby swamper on Tue May 05, 2009 4:39 pm

Abysmal turn out last night..... :|


Tewksbury tackling Shawsheen Tech budget tomorrow
By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, amayer-hohdahl@lowellsun.com
Updated: 05/05/2009 10:52:00 AM EDT

TEWKSBURY -- For months, he had stoked debate about the policies and finances of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School.

He arrived at Tewksbury Memorial High School last night with a motion in his briefcase for Town Meeting to reduce the vocational school's assessment by 10 percent.

But when it came time to debate the education budget, School Committee Chairman Richard O'Neill was silent -- paving the way for the biggest news of the night to be its placidity.

The respite will only be temporary.

O'Neill said last night that his committee will be ready to debate Shawsheen Tech tomorrow night, when Town Meeting takes up Article 33 -- the committee's proposal to apply the restrictions of Proposition 2 1/2 to the currently exempt regional schools.

"We're still concerned about the issues at hand," he said. "This was a strategic move."

O'Neill said he decided to shelve his budget-slashing motion last night once it became clear that no other part of the fiscal 2010 budget would be put up for debate.

A discussion about the Shawsheen Tech budget would have put the entire education line item up for debate, including the Tewksbury School Department's proposed funding.

"The question then became if we would run the risk of having our school budget changed with the debate of the Shawsheen Tech budget," O'Neill said. "The strides that we have made in other areas (of the budget) were just too important."

In the end, it took just over an hour for the 190 voters present to work their way through the first 18 articles on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.

The most spirited discussion of the night was yielded by Article 15, a proposal to borrow $300,000 for the installation of new plumbing in the Department of Public Works building and its connection to the town's newly expanded sewer system.

A handful of residents argued that at least part of that work should be shouldered by town workers, instead of doling it all out to contractors.

"Can't we do anything on the cheap in this town?" former Selectman Joe Gill asked. "Do we have to hire a consultant for everything? I don't think we spent $300,000 on that building when we first built it."

But town officials pointed out that the Department of Public Works does not have plumbers or drainlayers on staff.

They also argued that the department's personnel is typically been tied up during the summer construction season by ongoing work on the town's sewer expansion.

The article was ultimately approved.
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby swamper on Wed May 06, 2009 11:38 pm

Church proposal rejected
By Michael Wurm, Sun Correspondent
Updated: 05/06/2009 06:35:19 AM EDT

TEWKSBURY -- There was only one close vote during last night's Special Town Meeting, and it went against the hopes of the Bay Street Baptist Church.

Church members were hoping to amend a zoning bylaw so as to allow the church lot at 36 Pine St. to be split into two lots nonconforming to the bylaw. Members had hoped to sell one of them after agreeing to abandon plans last year to build a new assembly hall there.

But the hand-count vote failed, 67-62. The vote endorsed the recommendation of the Planning Board for "indefinite postponement" after the board originally asked for the article to be withdrawn.

Article sponsor Jeff Preston of the church had refused earlier to withdraw it. With his large bloc of church supporters, he was hopeful he had the numbers for passage.

Planning Board Chairman David Plunkett said his board favored the article's withdrawal so that it may be studied further before coming to a vote at Town Meeting. He said if the article passed, his board would be asked to rule on special permits to allow such nonconforming lots to be built on as exceptions to the zoning bylaw.

Plunkett also said the board was concerned "about the potential bad precedent" that approval of the nonconforming church lots would have on other parcels.

Among the other 22 articles on the warrant were the following:

* Approval of the Town Center overlay district.

Plunkett explained that this action is carrying forth the recommendations of the town Master Plan. The overlay district for the Route 38 corridor, from Old Boston Road to the library, will not change the underlying zoning for the area. But with design guidelines, Plunkett said, it will enhance aesthetics by encouraging positively the "attributes of a typical village center," such as being more walkable and encompassing mixed uses.

* Approval to spend $142,500 from the Community Preservation Fund's Historic Preservation Reserve Account for creation of design plans for preserving and rehabilitating the historic Town Hall as a centerpiece of the new overlay district.
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby BandMom on Thu May 07, 2009 6:27 am

Can someone tell me what happened with Article 33, the committee's proposal to apply the restrictions of Proposition 2 1/2 to the currently exempt regional schools?

What about the School Departments budget?

Thanks.
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby moretpani on Thu May 07, 2009 6:42 am

Who the f.. cares about the school dept.
Did the Senior Center (COA) get its raise… Please tell me it did.
There is a real danger reducing Bingo hours.
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby bjlewin on Thu May 07, 2009 9:26 am

article 33 passed
Best Regards,

Barry Lewin
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby BandMom on Thu May 07, 2009 9:58 am

Thanks bj....now can someone explain to me exactly what that means?

FYI. I was at the Tech last night and Lyons said that the budget increase for next year is 0%.
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby Chasnbos on Thu May 07, 2009 10:13 am

School operating budget request fy 10 33.5M Mgr budgeted 31.5 shortfall of 2M. The town side incorrectly overstated the school retirement cost by1.4m but is only crediting half back this year to the operating fund. The school is also banking on another 725,000 health care concession from school folks but negoiations are at an impasse. The intend of FY 10 budget is to level fund FY 09 services with FY 09 monies
S o this senerio leaves .5 M shortfall. Now we have take a wait and see approach until the State aid and the town employees concession numbers firm up which won't be decided until mid to the end of june. SC also has a backup plan to absorb up to a 2M shorfall by reducting non teaching instruction hours and stimulus monies to fill the gaps.
The school committee is currently looking at regrouping 1-4 elementary grades to ensure an equity of 26 in a class across the elementary district. This has the potential to free up 6-8 teachers to allocate to Ryan,Wynn and HS.


Article 33 - means Micelli will present this bill to be voted on at the Hill but as he said its a long shot but its the hope that other communities will get on board to support it. Mr Lyons said that his budget didn't increase but our assessment for 10 more students was $136,000 .
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby Curiosity123 on Thu May 07, 2009 11:27 am

Chas!!!!

WELL EXPLAINED!!!!

I am impressed!
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Re: THIS WEEK: TOWN MTG. May 4, 5, 6, 2009

Postby swamper on Thu May 07, 2009 4:48 pm

Tewksbury voters back bid to put Shawsheen Tech under Prop. 2 1/2
By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, amayer-hohdahl@lowellsun.com
Updated: 05/07/2009 11:42:07 AM EDT

O'Neill ...a matter of "fairness"

TEWKSBURY -- A spirited local debate about whether Shawsheen Valley Technical High School should face the same financial restrictions as Tewksbury's public schools is headed to Beacon Hill.

Town Meeting last night approved a home-rule petition asking the Legislature to bring regional schools under the purview of Proposition 2 1/2.

Officials were quick to acknowledge that the proposal has a long way to go in Boston.

"You can bet that there will be a vast outpouring from all the other (regional) schools in opposition," state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, told Town Meeting. "It will be an uphill battle to get this bill through."

Regional school, water and sewer districts are currently exempt from Proposition 2 1/2. If the schools are taken out of the mix, they could no longer increase assessments to member towns -- and thereby their budgets -- by more than 2.5 percent a year.

"This has nothing to do with the quality of education provided at Shawsheen Tech," School Committee Chairman Richard O'Neill said last night. "What it has to do with is accountability and fairness. Every other community has to live by (Proposition 2 1/2)."

The committee has been butting heads with Shawsheen Tech officials since last year, when it accused the Billerica-based school of recruiting top Tewksbury students -- taking seats away from those who truly need vocational studies, it argued.

At the time, O'Neill accused Shawsheen Tech of using "slick" marketing to capitalize on Tewksbury Memorial High School's bruised reputation in the wake of an accreditation warning.

O'Neill last night also pointed out that the number of Tewksbury students attending Shawsheen Tech that year featured about 35 students more than it should have -- at a price of approximately $14,000 per student. He said he was told that was "a mistake."

Tewksbury has also taken issue with the fact that its state aid dropped that year because of its shrinking student population.

Meanwhile, Shawsheen Tech upped its assessment to the town. Superintendent Charles Lyons told selectmen at the time that he has no choice but to do so, as Tewksbury's student exodus had affected the state-aid formula.

Lyons stuck to his guns last night, pointing out that Tewksbury's schools have lost more than 300 students over the last two years.

"The proposition that they lost millions in local aid because kids went to Shawsheen Tech is intellectually indefensible and mathematically wrong," he said. "It has to do with the number of kids who left the Tewksbury public schools."

Lyons also argued this week that Shawsheen Tech has already remained well below the 2.5 percent limit, even without being governed by Proposition 2 1/2.

But Tewksbury Chief Assessor Jay Kelley pointed out last night that the vocational school's budget has jumped by 18.5 percent since 2006, while Tewksbury's only increased by 12 percent.

Lyons noted that his budget will be level-funded from this fiscal year to the next, while the total assessment to the school's five member towns -- Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury and Wilmington -- will also remain the same.

"They have a 0 percent increase and we have a 10 percent decrease," O'Neill shot back. "We're hurting. There is only so much money to go around. With Proposition 2 1/2 ... the excess privilege money disappears and the money for the student stays."

But some residents argued that Tewksbury should also be looking inward, given its high school's accreditation warning.

"The problem here is more with how Tewksbury funds this building," former School Committee member Keith Rauseo said, looking around the high school's gymnasium, "rather than how Shawsheen Tech funds itself.
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