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Saugus FinCom vets 11 budgets

SAUGUS – The Finance Committee scrutinized 11 departmental budgets Wednesday, pausing only to question an account used to pay legal expenses and to applaud the Council on Aging for work well done.The departmental budgets or line items undergoing review included the Town Moderator, the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Board of Appeals, Council on Aging, Veterans’ Agent, Handicapped Commission, Public Library, Youth & Recreation Commission and the Housing Authority.The hearing was a continuation of fiscal reviews conducted for the town’s proposed fiscal 2010 budget. The committee earlier this month reviewed police, fire, emergency management, School Department and other offices.Town Manager Andrew Bisignani also delivered to the Finance Committee the latest update on state aid for Saugus. In addition to cuts already imposed by Gov. Deval Patrick, the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday indicated the town will receive $102,000 less in state aid.While the news wasn’t welcome, it could have been worse, Bisignani said.The town manager also informed the Finance Committee of plans under way to change the trash disposal system in Saugus to save money. The changes will include an increase in the volume of recycling, he said.As part of cost-saving measures, Bisignani explained the town will save approximately $60,000 per year through energy efficiency upgrades at some schools.The Finance Committee questioned why the Board of Selectmen was permitted $50,000 for legal services, funds shifted from the town manager’s budget. Selectman Scott Crabtree said the board should pay its bills directly to the vendors, which would provide more oversight.Acting Finance Committee Chairman Kenneth DePatto was opposed, saying the town should maintain a single account for legal services. He recommended any legal services provided to the selectmen be appropriately marked as BOS (Board of Selectmen).Richard Barry, chairman of the Council on Aging, used the occasion to call attention to the council’s changing role in today’s society.According to Barry, many of the council’s expenses are paid for through fundraising events. He noted decades ago the council ran a senior center where those of golden age could gather for recreation and to socialize.”Our role has changed significantly,” he said, explaining the busy senior center is filled with aging residents puzzled by new health care regulations, tax-filing requirements after retirement, technological advancements and myriad other issues.In some instances, the sons and daughters of the senior citizens are seeking help from the Council on Aging, asking for advice on how best to help their parents.Pam Gill, chairman of the Board of Library Trustees, told the committee the library is currently running 30 activity programs and is open 59 hours per week, the minimum amount to maintain its state accreditation.The Finance Committee also heaped praise on Gregory Nickolas and the Youth & Recreation Commission for overseeing an increasing array of athletic programs.

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