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Finance Committee – Warrant, Housing Trust, and Minuteman

Black text is mostly objective, red text is mostly subjective in nature. These are notes from 3/5.

The minutes from the last meeting were approved.

First up was the Capital Budget, discussed on Monday. The budget was recommended at $8,538,000. There was almost no discussion; we’d talked for an hour and a half earlier in the week.

Article 17 – Holding the warrant open until 60 days before Town Meeting. This was put on by the TM Procedures committee. John Leone and John Maher spoke. Evidently the Selectmen are agreeing to open the warrant in the first week of December and closing it in the 3rd full week of January. The article will be withrawn.

Article 44-45 – John Maher spoke about the destination of the OPEB funds. Maher repeated his statement that the only option offered by the special legislation was to transfer the funds to the Retirement Board. FinComm then voted a recommendation of no action on Article 45 (the article that would transfer the money somewhere else). As I previously blogged, I think we were outmaneuvered. I wouldn’t choose to give this money to the Retirement Board, but they won this battle when Town Meeting asked for the special legislation.

Article 19 – Housing Director Laura Weiner, AHA Board Chair John Griffin, and Town Counsel John Maher spoke about this article. The Symmes agreement includes a $150,000 payment to be used towards affordable housing. This would be the place to put it. There were several questions about the potential increased costs to the town: employees, eminent domain, management of property, and others. The goal was stated to be a “bank account” for affordable housing – when a developer wants to build affordable housing they could borrow money from this trust to build the housing. Several questions were asked about whether the trust had too many downsides – the general goal of bank account could be met through a regular town fund. It was stated that there are many towns using this structure, but they are mostly town who have adopted the Community Preservation Act. It was noted that there are several options for the Symmes payment; the money can be accepted and used by the town without this article. After discussion, the committee voted to recommend no action on this article. This article would erect a new bureaucracy with lots of potential costs and risk. The potential upside is small. There are three active affordable housing organizations in the town, including the non-profit Housing Corporation of Arlington. I strongly prefer that this excellent organization continue its work. A town trust would only slow things down and increase costs.

Minuteman – Superintendent Bouquillon presented the Minuteman budget. His presentation was consistent with what I saw in January. He talked about MCAS success, out of district students, recruitment goals, communication with other districts and towns, recruiting new members, program choices, and more. The assessment this year is smaller than last year, mostly due to a lower enrollment figure. I continue to be impressed with the Superintendent. There are a lot of things right about Minuteman, and a lot of problems. He’s not hesitant to address the problems and talk about solutions. The budget was recommended at $3,153,000.