Annual Town Meeting Ends with Budget Approval and Instructional Motions
Town Meeting approved a $104,551,681 budget for Fiscal Year 2018 on Thursday, May 4. The budget was broken up into 18 different sections for the purpose of discussion and amendments. Once all amendments were voted on, the vote was taken on the final amount. Two unsuccessful amendments were proposed to the budget.
Offered by Town Meeting member Ron D’Addario, the first proposed amendment sought to add $33,000 to the Library budget for the purpose of restoring Sunday hours to the Library schedule. Despite a heartfelt plea for the extra hours by D’Addario, the amendment failed to pass by a margin of 58 to 86.
A second failed budget amendment was proposed by Town Meeting member Bill Brown and would have reduced the School Department budget by $100,000. Several members questioned why the Middle School Language program, which was targeted by the proposed reduction, is more important than a new police cruiser or additional firefighter. Town Meeting member Mary Ellen O’Neill opposed the amendment noting that it was “mean-spirited” after so much work and compromise was done in several town department to save the program. After much discussion, this amendment was defeated by majority.
Once the budget was approved, Town Meeting returned to Article 25, which vacated the seats of several Town Meeting members who failed to be present for greater than 50% of Town Meeting sessions in the past year. The Meeting then moved to instructional motions.
The Climate Advisory Committee was instructed to investigate offering a bylaw amendment restricting the use of thin plastic shopping bags in Reading. While the committee could go about this business without Town Meeting’s blessing, the motion was offered to “take Town Meeting’s temperature” on the issue. The motion passed.
Another instructional motion was offered asking the Selectmen to exercise their role as Park Commissioners and enforce the spirit of the 1917 gift that has become Memorial Park. The argument was made that the park was given to the town to be a place of passive recreation. Due the ambiguity of the language of the gift, members were uncertain as to what to do. The motion was withdrawn, thought the Selectmen promised to look into the issue with Town Counsel, Ray Miyares.
A final instructional motion was offered, asking the Selectmen to look into the possibility that greater revenue could be derived from the Reading Municipal Light Department. The current formula is tied to the Consumer Price Index. A second part of the motion, to investigate whether or not sale of the RMLD would be beneficial, was removed by amendment because of potential concerns from the other RMLD participant communities. The motion as amended passed, and the suggestion was made that an existing RMLD committee that was formed in 1998 could be reestablished to do the work. Town Meeting adjourned at 11:55pm not to return, ending this year’s annual Town Meeting.