Acushnet Committee Tackles Budget Adjustments Amid Rising Costs

In a recent Acushnet Finance Committee meeting, the key focus was on the town’s budgetary concerns, particularly the rising costs impacting various departments. The discussions centered on the need for budget adjustments due to increased expenses in the Assessing Department and Town Clerk’s office, challenges associated with mail-in voting, pay rate increases for election staff, and the potential consolidation of town positions.

Kelly Costa, the principal Assessor, brought attention to the budget for the Assessing Department, noting an increase solely in the administrative assistant line as a result of the ASME Union collective bargaining agreement raise. Contractual obligations, such as software and licensing fees, were also discussed, with particular emphasis on the software contract with Patriot Properties, now Catalyst, and the additional costs expected from the upcoming revaluation year. The committee was concerned about the rise in expenses and considered the need for budget adjustments.

The Town Clerk, Pam Leonti, presented her budget, highlighting the pressure from increased postage costs driven by legislative changes, including vote by mail and early voting. The complexities of maintaining accurate household records for the census and the related mailing expenses were discussed, leading to a proposal for a separate postage line item in the Town Clerk’s budget. This was accompanied by an acknowledgment of the recent reserve transfer for postage and the possibility of establishing a specific line item in the election account.

Furthermore, the challenges and costs associated with mail-in voting were a point of discussion. The committee expressed frustration with the financial burden of unreturned mail ballots and the additional work to address errors, such as incorrectly filled out postcards. Concerns over low in-person early voting turnout were also raised, with only 135 voters despite efforts to promote participation. The confusion surrounding voter registration terminology and the need for voter education were mentioned. Additionally, the Yes program’s assistance from youth and seniors in the electoral process was recognized.

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The necessity for pay increases for election workers was brought up, reflecting on the long hours and dedication required during election days. A breakdown of the early voting costs for the state and presidential primaries was provided, with a call for additional funding to cover the increased workload and responsibilities of the town clerk, particularly as the chief records access officer. The town clerk requested a budget increase and highlighted the challenges of staffing for town meetings, emphasizing prudent use of funds.

An unexpected $9,000 increase in the town clerk’s budget from the prior year was discussed, attributed to the hiring of a new employee not initially budgeted for. The committee reviewed the budget adjustments in various line items, including the increase in dog licenses revenue and the additional training and subscription costs for elections and notary services.

The committee also contemplated the possibility of combining the cable and IT coordinator positions into a director of communications role. This consideration was due to changing TV viewing habits and the pursuit of efficiency. The challenge of hiring qualified staff for the Town Planner position led to discussions on union negotiations and the exploration of regional planning options.

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The committee discussed tough decision-making in the face of limited resources, but no significant disagreements or debates were apparent on the budget items discussed.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Town Administrator:
James Kelley
Financial Oversight Board Officials:
Michael R. Boucher, Susan M. Delgado, Peter Benoit, Eric Chew, Robert Ferreira, Eric R. McGlynn, Robert St. Jean, Cathy Murray (Secretary)

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