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Swampscott ramps up for annual Town Meeting
By David Mclellan | June 10, 2020
SWAMPSCOTT — It is unknown whether Swampscott will have a virtual or in-person Town Meeting this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swampscott’s Town Meeting will be held Monday, June 22. Because of the likelihood the Town Meeting will be virtual or at least severely altered due to the pandemic, the Select Board has chosen to offer a smaller warrant to be voted on, focusing on the most essential items, such as the budget, and putting off other articles to later meetings.
Town Moderator Michael McClung said he hopes the entire meeting can be done in one session, starting at 6 p.m. with check-in for Town Meeting members, and finishing at 10 p.m. or even later.
There will be six financial articles on the warrant, three capital articles, and two articles amending zoning and general bylaws, for a total of 11 articles to be voted.
“Each article is something that is imminent, and needs to be addressed now,” said Select Board member Laura Spathanas. “It seems like a lot for a virtual Town Meeting, but I have no doubts we’ll get through it.”
The first article will ask residents to appropriate funds to cover the municipal budget for the next fiscal year, which is expected to be approximately $62,221,518.
However, the second, third, and fourth articles will ask for alterations to the budget and budget appropriations, such as allowing the town to transfer money from its “free cash” reserves to be spent on the schools.
As The Item reported in Monday’s paper, Swampscott is expecting revenue shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is seeking to reduce its originally projected expenses by $641,218. Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and Assistant Town Administrator Ron Mendes have recommended $600,000 be transferred from free cash and reserves to cover most of that cutback. The town has about $3.4 million in free cash.
The town’s recommendations in terms of altering the budget are subject to change prior to June 22.
Other financial articles seek to transfer retained earnings from the town’s water and sewer funds to lower water and sewer rates, respectively.
The three capital articles on the annual Town Meeting warrant ask for Chapter 90 funds to be used for roadway improvements, and appropriation of $1.1 million for the town’s water main replacement project and appropriations for future capital projects.
The Town Meeting’s remaining articles are expected to be changes to zoning and general bylaws, and are related to the pandemic, including allowing restaurants to have outdoor dining, which is in line with the state’s COVID-19 “reopening” plan.
According to Mendes, the Mass Taxpayers Foundation has said it anticipates the state will collect $6 billion less than it originally expected this year, due to the pandemic. Thus, the amount the town will receive from the state, although still uncertain, will likely be less than Swampscott anticipated, Mendes said.
“We’re likely to have multiple Town Meetings in the next six months, because we’re going to have budget changes at the state level, we’re going to have to address all the traditional things we need to address. So, other articles, it’s not like they aren’t going to get attention, they just aren’t going to get attention on June 22,” said Select Board Chairman Peter Spellios.
For more information and updates on the upcoming Swampscott Town Meeting, visit www.swampscottma.gov.