SWAMPSCOTT — The Finance Committee unanimously accepted the year-end budget shuffle and discussed the additional use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for non-union town employees on Monday.
The year-end shuffle is approving moving items off the budget, where the town underspent in the current fiscal year to cover items where the town overspent in the current fiscal year, said Finance Committee Chair Eric Hartmann.
“If you overspend in a particular category, and if you underspend somewhere else, and the Finance Committee approves it, and then the Select Board approves it, it’s something we have to do to effectively balance the budget,” said Hartmann.
Hartmann said that the year-end shuffle is a usual practice to account for unanticipated changes to the town’s budget.
“The budget is a budget, and we don’t necessarily know where we are going to overspend, and where we are going to underspend,” said Hartmann.
The total overspending amounted to $325,156 with the largest item on the agenda being overtime/reserve police salaries requiring an additional $140,000 and overtime fire department salaries that exceeded the budget by $85,000.
Some of the areas that also required additional funding this year were contracted consulting, which required an additional $6,000, town counsel expenses that needed an additional $25,000, as well as both employment screening and end of employment, which required an additional $11,000 and $30,000 respectively. The overspending occurred even though the town previously budgeted for overtime and retirement.
“We had some of the costs already budgeted in the end of employment,” said Town Accountant Amy Sarro.
Police expenses turned out $12,000 more than budgeted due to contracted consulting services. The Building Department overspent by $3,500, and snow and ice expenses over the winter exceeded the budget by $8,656. The Board of Appeals needed an additional $4,000 for legal ads.
The surplus that the town will have at the end of FY23 is going to be equal to or exceed the overspending, said the town accountant. Additional funds can be drawn from maintenance services ($35,500), unemployment expenses ($17,000), senior center salaries ($23,100) and senior planner salaries ($25,500).
The committee also discussed the additional use of $100,250 of ARPA funding for the benefit of non-union town employees, as the last town meeting discussed and approved the use of ARPA funds for the union staff, said Hartmann. Now the Select Board has asked the town to go back and look at non-union staff, “who kind of performed above and beyond during the pandemic,” said Hartmann.
“At the last town meeting we had previously discussed and approved the use of ARPA funds just for union employees in the town; now tonight we are saying, well, let’s just not, you know, recognize the union employees who went over and above during the pandemic, let’s look at the town staff that are not in unions,” said Hartmann.
One of the public comments included the demand for more transparency from the town regarding ARPA funds allocation, and one of the Finance Committee members, Cinder McNerney, suggested that having more discussions on spending ARPA funds in the committee would be the right thing to do considering the amount of the funding.
The town previously received $4.57 million in ARPA funding, which need to be obligated before Dec. 31, 2024, and need to be expended before Dec. 31, 2026, said Sarro. Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald announced that the town will plan some public meetings on ARPA spending.
“We will have a number of public meetings with other committees about all of the opportunities for us to use these one-time funds,” said Fitzgerald. “We really want all the stakeholders engaged.”
Oksana Kotkina can be reached at [email protected].