Town Default Budget to be Higher Than Operating Budget
If voters vote "no" on 2013 budget, a default budget $187K higher will automatically kick in.
The default town budget that will appear on the 2013 warrant will be higher than the operating budget voters will be asked to approve following a split vote of the Salem Board of Selectmen Monday night.
Selectmen Jim Keller, Michael Lyons and Everett McBride, Jr., voted in favor of setting the default budget at $37,678,745, which is $187,693 more than the proposed 2013 operating budget.
Insisting the default number should not be higher than the operating budget, Selectmen Chair Pat Hargreaves and selectman Stephen Campbell voted in opposition.
As a result of the town adopting the SB 2 form of town government at last March's election, an item like the operating budget that used to be handled by the second deliberative session of town meeting is now voted on at the town ballot election instead.
Because of that, if the town budget fails, the default number would automatically kick in.
In a memo to selectmen, town Finance Director Jane Savastano explained the original comparison showed the default budget would be $901,734 less than the proposed budget.
But because of reductions adopted by selectmen, that changed to the nearly $188,000 increase.
Savastano said this was mostly due to amendments made to the capital budget, with approximately $530,000 in capital requests being moved to the warrant.
In the memo, Savastano said the default budget "is based upon the 2012 approved budget by legal, contractual and one-time appropriations. Not all of the amendments made fall under these categories and therefore were not adjusted."
Campbell and Hargreaves took issue with how the number was calculated. Campbell said he's heard for years from locals who get upset when the School District default budget is more than the operating budget at the ballot.
"I cannot understand a situation where the default number can be bigger than what we're asking for in 2013," Campbell said. "If we're spending less, then we're not doing something."
Savastano reiterated to the board that she did not take the 2013 operating budget numbers into account when calculating the default budget for 2013, saying it is entirely based on 2012 appropriations.
"You have to look at the 2013 budget to understand what you drop out of the 2012 budget," Campbell said. "You have to, and that's where the difference is."
McBride, who heavily championed the cause to switch to SB 2 in advance of last March, said with $558,000 in debts coming off the books after 2013, he expects the default could be lower in the future.
Lyons agreed with McBride's assessment in voting for the higher number.