Reading, MA — Departmental budget presentations to the Select Board for Fiscal Year 2023 continued on Tuesday as Library Director Amy Lannon shared her proposal. Lannon’s $1,998,125 budget request was approved by the Library Board of Trustees and represents a 3.4% increase over FY 2022. The largest requested increase is the salary line for the yet-to-be-hired Equity and Social Justice position. Lannon explained that the adjustment is needed to make the salary competitive with other similar positions in the area. Lannon shared that in 2021, with the use of materials and online resources, the community received a $6,818,681 value from the library for its $1,804,394 investment.
The presentation by Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios shared the abundance of work that the Public Services Department has done in 2021. These include economic development incentives, permitting and planning initiatives, and work by the Veterans and Elder and Human Services divisions. Delios noted that her budget request is designed to “improve workflow” throughout the entire department. She is requesting the addition of a part-time ZBA clerk, additional hours for Elder and Human Services staff, and additional hours for Recreation Department staff. These requests total $55,180. Additionally, Delios is requesting $125,000 to outsource some additional services, including an update to the Housing Production Plan, which will be due in 2023.
Director of Public Works Jane Kinsella presented the Public Works and Enterprise budgets. The department has sixty full-time equivalent positions and is seeking no additional positions at this time. Kinsella outlined the challenges her department has faced in maintaining and training staff. The department’s $3,877,125 budget request includes an additional $100,000 for outsourcing water distribution services. This would be used to secure the services of outside professionals if there is a water main break that occurs during other emergencies, such as snowstorms, and the town staff is unavailable to assist. In total, the budget request is a 4.08% increase over FY 2022.
Town Manager Robert LeLacheur closed the budget overview with a look at shared costs, capital budgets, and a summary of what had been shared over the two evenings of budget discussions. Currently, expected revenues indicate a balanced municipal budget would be $32,016,000. The requests before the Select Board total $32,352,403, which means an excess of $336,404 that needs to be trimmed. This is before the Select Board itself makes any proposed additions.
The Select Board will likely continue its FY 2023 budget discussions on January 4. As per the charter, LeLacheur will have to submit his proposed budget to the Finance Committee by the end of February.
The Select Board also had a brief discussion regarding the publishing of emails in their packet. Since they ceased doing so in August, there have been three public records requests regarding Select Board emails, all from the same person. Select Board members Anne Landry and Carlo Bacci shared that they were pleased that the Select Board packet had ceased being used as a political weapon.
Member Chris Haley suggested that those emails pertaining to items on the agenda could be returned to the packet. Several members disagreed, citing the staff time needed to determine which emails would be appropriate. Member Mark Dockser asked, “The change [to the packet] is working; what is the benefit to bringing [the emails] back?” Dockser also noted that they are more “on point” and less weaponized since the emails had been removed. He also suggested that the board consider reigniting outreach efforts such as office hours to allow for additional public input to the board.
The Select Board adjourned at 10:40 pm.