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Saugus awaits special election ruling

SAUGUS – With state Sen. Thomas McGee helping to fast-track the bill, Saugus officials are awaiting the results of their efforts to convince the Legislature to allow a special town election on June 7.The election would essentially introduce a single ballot question at the polls, asking residents whether they will agree to a one-time special property tax assessment to pay for $1.2 million in snow and ice removal expenses incurred over the winter.State Rep. Donald Wong, Town Manager Andrew Bisignani, Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian, Selectmen Scott Crabtree and School Committee Chairman Wendy Reed visited the State House recently to meet with McGee and give testimony before the Committee on Elections.Wong is also chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen and state Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, sits on the Committee on Elections. DiDomenico represents Saugus’ Cliftondale section (precincts 2, 6 and 10).The Saugus officials expressed concern that the Legislature grant approval before April 26, the last day in which a special election can be scheduled in order to go to the polls in June. McGee addressed the committee on behalf of the Saugus delegation.”We all signed the bill in support,” said Manoogian, noting the proposal must pass both the House and Senate. “The time frame is very tight.”With the clock ticking and no iron-clad assurance the bill will be heard and passed before the deadline, Bisignani has been looking into an alternative strategy in which the Board of Selectmen call for a special election without Legislative approval. “At that point, it becomes a technical issue,” Manoogian said.Manoogian, the Precinct 10 representative, said an alternative must be investigated because Gov. Deval Patrick may be traveling out of state and his signature is required on the bill.The $1.2-million snow-and-ice bill stemmed from a particularly foul-weathered winter. The vendors have been paid, but without the one-time special assessment, significant cuts would be made to the fiscal 2012 budget.Bisignani said without funds from the special assessment, the town schools cannot provide services at the fiscal 2011 level. He also explained overtime for police, firefighters and public safety dispatchers would be drastically decreased.School Superintendent Richard Langlois repeatedly has asserted the School Department expects to receive “the lion’s share” of the special-assessment funds if residents vote in favor of it.Unlike a Proposition 2? override, a special assessment on property taxes is a one-time payment and does not stay on the residents’ property tax bill the following year.The snow-and-ice expenses have been presented in detail by the Department of Public Works in detail, in a multiple-page document categorizing costs by storm and vendor.”Everyone has been paid. The courts allow us to push the cost into next year’s budget. That’s what we’re doing,” Manoogian said.Town officials are eager to learn if the matter will be brought before the full body of the Legislature before the deadline lapses. “It’s a tight situation. Very time sensitive,” Manoogian concluded.

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