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Board of Selectmen Minutes 05/02/2011
Board of Selectmen
May 2, 2011
Regular Session
Teacher’s cafeteria, Lynnfield Middle School

Arthur J. Bourque III, Chairman
Robert P. MacKendrick, Selectman
Al Merritt, Selectman

Chairman Bourque called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m.

Fiscal Year 2012 budget and warrant article recommendations
Town Administrator William Gustus told Board members that the School Committee was meeting at this time and, in light of the failure to pass the pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) article at town meeting last week, would be suspending its vote to institute busing fees next school year. The School Committee will be asking the Board to include the cost of school busing not included in the FY12 budget. If the override fails, they will impose the busing fees.

The result is the proposed budget will be $250,000 further out of balance without the estimated bus fees. The School Committee feels that parents should not be asked to pay up to $600 in busing fees plus the cost of the override.

Chairman Bourque asked whether the Board should have control of the fees since the cost of busing is carried in the Department of Public Works budget, not the School Department budget. Mr. Gustus said that two items in the DPW budget address school buses: one for the cost of operating the Town-owned and Town-employee-driven buses and another for the cost of hiring buses and drivers from a contractor. The total cost is $650,000. The School Department is not proposing any changes to bus routes.

Chairman Bourque said he believes an override that includes the cost of school busing beyond the statutory requirements will not pass.

Mr. Gustus said that school parents will be more likely to support the override if the cost of providing the current level of busing services is included in it. He noted that some parents of school-aged children voted against PAYT at town meeting because the School Committee had tied the implementation of bus fees to its passage. In addition, there are people who are against paying any more as well as people who did not like the specific PAYT proposal. He said that it is possible that that a special town meeting will be needed in June with a budget deficit that will have to be corrected somehow. He said the School Committee will agree to impose bus fees if the override fails.

Chairman Bourque noted that there is no way for the town meeting to impose the fee. He asked what options the Board has in this scenario.

Mr. Gustus said that when the DPW budget is taken up by town meeting, the Board could recommend cutting the line item for contracted buses by $175,000. This would cut funding for school busing to the amount required to meet the Town’s statutory limit.

Chairman Bourque said that up to this point, the School Committee had said it would implement the bus fees. He noted that the school budget would increase by 4.5 percent.

Selectman MacKendrick asked if the Board could propose two overrides: one for the school busing and one for the trash collection.  Mr. Gustus that this would be allowed, and that the Board could propose one override for trash collection costs only, at $350,000, and one that included the trash collection costs and the school busing costs, at $600,000. If both passed, the higher amount would prevail.

Finance Committee Co-Chair Jack Dahlstedt asked if the Board is seeking to put the School Committee on notice about its intentions. Chairman Bourque said he felt the Board had been surprised by the School Committee’s decision and said he is not sure an override that included the cost of maintaining busing without fees would pass. Mr. Gustus said that an override vote in Nahant recently failed, and that in the current environment, any override for any amount will be a hard sell.

Chairman Bourque said that people see school buses that are half-empty. Selectman MacKendrick said they also see the bus stopping at every house with a child. Mr. Gustus said the schools have taken steps to reduce the incidences of door-to-door drop-off and pick-up by consolidating stops, and have eliminated one bus they had requested.

Mr. Dahlstedt said he was envisioning asking the School Committee for its position on the busing line item. Mr. Gustus said he believes that the School Committee is considering it from a fairness standpoint. They do not believe school parents should be the only residents paying user fees.

Selectman MacKendrick said most parents drive their children to school already.

School Committee Chair Dorothy Presser joined the discussion and said that committee would like to see the cost of maintaining current busing levels added to the override amount.

Selectman MacKendrick said that the Board would take up the matter of the override after town meeting is concluded.

On the motion of Selectman MacKendrick, seconded by Chairman Bourque, the Board voted 2-0 (Selectman Merritt absent) at 7:28 p.m. to recess the meeting until the conclusion of town meeting,

At 11:12 p.m. the Board was called into session by Chairman Bourque.

On the motion of Selectman MacKendrick, seconded by Chairman Bourque, the Board voted 2-0 (Selectman Merritt absent) to call for a special town election on Monday, June 6, 2011 to seek an override of Proposition 2-1/2 for general operating expenses in the amount of $560,000.

On the motion of Selectman MacKendrick, seconded by Chairman Bourque, the Board voted 2-0 (Selectman Merritt absent) to adjourn at 11:14 p.m.

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