Photo: Floyd Carman, town treasurer.
“If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again,” goes the old proverb by Thomas Palmer. And on the final night of the 2018 annual Town Meeting, two articles that failed in 2017 will return for a second try before the town’s legislative body.
Articles 24 and 25 are not financial expenditures for renovating buildings or purchasing material, but rather, is a matter of “fairness” as each measure makes adjusts payments to retirees and spousal survivors, according to Town Treasurer Floyd Carman who is sponsoring the measures.
Tonight’s meeting – which reconvenes at 7 p.m. at the Belmont High School – will take up the remaining budgetary articles come before the 300-plus members, including the big-ticket articles such as the school ($57 million) and town budgets in Article 19, along with a vote to expend $770,000 from a stabilization fund to “cap” the former incinerator site on Concord Avenue at the Lexington town line.
While the financial articles make up more than 90 percent of the town’s $116.2 million fiscal year 2019 budget, the articles are unlikely to stir-up members at Town Meeting as they have been vetted by the Warrant Committee and many members have discussed the motions at Warrant meetings. That is not the case with the two returning articles.
Speaking before the Board of Selectmen on May 30, Carman said the changes being proposed would bring benefits to town employees and spouses to the level what school teachers receive.
Article 24 will increase the annual spousal benefit to surviving spouses from $6,000 to $12,000. While it is the doubling of the monetary outlay, only three survivors currently collect this benefit with a further 11 who could collect the perk. If accepted, the budget will increase by $15,456 in fiscal year 2019.
In Article 25, the maximum cost of living adjustment (COLA) for town employees will be upped by $1,000 to $13,000 which is the level of Belmont School teachers, marking the first increase in 20 years. The change will provide eligible employees an extra $30 a year. The jump will impact the fiscal ’19 budget by an additional $9,960.
Both articles were defeated by the 2017 Town Meeting by a nearly two to one margin as members, who feared the town was likely to seek an operational and schools override in 2019 and were not in a mood to bring employees up to the benefit level of teachers.
But Carman told the Selectmen that for “short money” the town will “bring a level of fairness” to all employees by providing a level playing field for all retirees. The Selectmen voted 3-0 to seek “favorable action” by members on both articles.