If you’re just tuning in, a little recap: we’re on Article 8, the FY ’09 budgets, and we’ve already spent over an hour not really talking about the budget, but talking about how we should talk about the budget. I’m not sure how much of this is “hey! We have a new moderator!” and how much is “whoops! We have to do math!”
If you want to know what happened earlier, scroll down to Democracy Isn’t Pretty. If you just want to cut to the chase and find out about Article 20, the school feasibility study, scroll down further or go here.
9:05 p.m. We’re cooking now! We’re now revisiting the “holds,” portions of the budget that were called out during the reading. First up: Town Administrator Natalie Lashmit’s salary and expenses. They’ve made a huge jump since 2007, a South Street resident says, what’s up with that? Lashmit notes there was an interim administrator in ’07, which doesn’t adequately reflect the expenses associated with her department. She then lists them off — everything from dues for municipal groups to notebooks for selectmen to “don’t sexually harass your co-workers, we mean it this time” training.
I’ll make a confession here: I knew Natalie in our previous lives, when she was a Marlborough City Councilor and I was covering Marlborough. I have a healthy respect for Natalie.
9:11 p.m. Ray Mead, former moderator, stands to clarify something else for newbie Roger Trahan. He also notes that he’s spent 18 years on the stage and never realized what it’s like in the crowd: “These seats are wicked hard.”
9:15 p.m. Why did the numbers for the law department go up? We have a pending lawsuit and those are the estimated expenses. It’s gone up $100,000. Eeek.
9:17 p.m. What’s up with the fuel item? It’s kind of vague. Lashmit explains it’s now a separate item so the town can track escalating fuel costs. A motion is made to do a feasibility study on the town moving from diesel to, get this, vegetable oil. I know! An audible groan rises from the audience along with a few titters. The moderator explains this is not the proper forum for this request.
9:20 p.m. Charlie Bolack stands up to talk about the police department. He wants to fully fund all their requests, including an additional police officer and cruiser, which weren’t included in this final budget.
Wait, do I hear music? Suddenly the doors to the auditorium burst open and a stream of leggy dancers, all dressed in short-skirted police uniforms and saucy little caps high-step it down the aisles as Bolack, suddenly dressed in a tuxedo with sparkles on the lapels begins to sing!
We simply want,
What Millbury’s got,
A police department beyond compare…
And the dancers have invaded the stage! Town officers confusedly move their tables aside as they form a chorus line around Bolack, who continues to sing!
When the bad guys want to kill you
It’s the men in blue to the rescue
When the evil men all come to towwwwn
Our police force will take them dowwwwn!
American flags fall from the high school stage backdrop! Red, white and blue confetti fall from the rafters! And Bolack — my god, look at that guy tap dance! He’s a newspaper publisher AND a nifty dancer! And the girls line up for the grand finale, ending with a lineup that spells out the letters “fully fund Grafton police” and a saucy wink!
9:40 p.m. I’m sorry, I must have dozed off there. It’s pointed out that Bolack hasn’t suggested a funding source apart from “the money will turn up somewhere” and, a Finance Committee member notes as he “comes to a slow boil,” Bolack was never in attendance at any of the meetings at which the budget was discussed. It’s pointed out that adding an officer also means adding costs to health insurance, other insurance, retirement, his equipment and probably his unemployment when he’s laid off next year.
Also, Millbury’s police department is bigger than ours because they have those pesky Shoppes at Blackstone Valley and Rtes. 146 and 20 wreaking havoc.
I’m going to point this out right here: I’m far from anti-public safety. But the time to hash out a department increase is during the Finance Committee hearings, NOT Town Meeting.
9:45 p.m. Trahan rules the motion out of order anyway.
9:46 p.m. My neighbor’s Blackberry tells us the Celtics are down by 2, 43-41.
9:48 p.m. There’s a motion to skip ahead and move to Article 20. Nice try, but no, we’re in the middle of discussing the budget.
9:49 p.m. The gentleman from Valleyview Drive wants to know why, if the schools are among the fastest growing in the state, they aren’t getting their full request. Lashmit explains that, at this time, it was felt the town should not go for an override. She goes into an explanation of costs, noting that health and retirement are the big ones.
10:05 p.m. We’re finished with all the holds! We’re approving the budget!
10:07 p.m. We’re on Article 8. “All those in favor of Article 9,” Trahan begins. The crowd shouts back, “EIGHT!”
10:09 p.m. Another person lobbies to take Article 20 out of order. She’s shot down. We’re going to tackle this warrant in order!