Council Approves Major Department Operating Budgets
By: James Kinsella
The Barnstable Town Council last night approved tens of millions of dollars in budgets for a number of major town departments in the coming fiscal year with barely a quibble.
The council approved proposed budgets without amendments for the Barnstable public schools, the police department, the Barnstable Municipal Airport enterprise fund, and the growth management department.
The council also approved the budgets of the Department of Public Works and its three enterprise funds, which cover solid waste, water pollution control and water supply.
Then, in a series of rapid-fire unanimous votes, the town council continued public hearings on spending on remaining budgets to the June 21 council meeting.
The budgets are part of a proposed $155,614,901 town operating budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. That budget is down .18 percent from this year’s operating budget.
At last night’s meeting, the council unanimously approved spending $55,900,835 for the Barnstable public schools, $11,178,649 for the police department, $7,349,458 for the airport enterprise fund, and $901,437 for the growth management department.
The council also unanimously approved spending $2,656,754 for the solid waste enterprise fund, $4,684,189 for the water pollution control enterprise fund, and $3,454,571 for the water supply enterprise fund.
But a small firefight erupted over a part-time energy coordinator position included in the $7,863,952 general fund budget for the Department of Public Works.
The position has been covered by a grant.
Town councilor Ann B. Canedy of Cummaquid objected to paying for the position through the general fund, and also to a proposal to eventually fund the position through savings that would be realized from a solar renewable energy installation.
The town’s director of public works, Mark S. Ells, said it was critical that the town continue to fund the position so at least one person could concentrate on renewable energy initiatives.
The town council proceeded to vote 11-2 to approve the DPW general budget, with Ms. Canedy and John T. Norman of Marstons Mills voting against.
The council unanimously supported the public school budget, which included funding a number of positions, including six library assistants, previously covered through an educational jobs bill.
The budget also included the addition of the equivalent of 2.5 full-time positions for math coaching in grades K-5.
In response to a question from Ms. Canedy, Barnstable superintendent of schools Mary A. Czajkowski acknowledged enrollment had fallen in the Barnstable public schools since 2002, but that spending had increased.
Dr. Czajkowski said, however, that more students are facing problems related to such things as family breakdowns and drug abuse.
“We’re having more challenges coming to us in our schools,” she said.
Barnstable Police Chief Paul B. MacDonald said serious crime has been declining in the town in response to initiatives such as creation of the Barnstable Street Crime Unit, which has been targeting violent crime, especially in Hyannis.
Spending at the department is up 1.6 percent, which includes additional overtime for the street crime unit and the increase in a part-time domestic violence specialist to full-time.
As for the airport enterprise fund, airport manager Roland W. “Bud” Breault Jr. said no surplus funds were being used to balance the operating budget.
When Ms. Canedy passed along an observation by the Comprehensive Financial Advisory that the airport has been “remarkably inaccurate” in its budget estimates,
Mr. Breault called the committee comment “specious” and said the airport fund had no control over economic trends influencing its revenue.
In 2008, Mr. Breault said, the airport had no idea the depths the recession would reach, or the lack of recovery.
At the growth management department, the department has added an equivalent half-position formerly funded through a state grant program in order to continue the town’s investment in its downtown arts programs.
Jo Anne Miller Buntich, director of growth management, provided a review of new economic development in the town, and said the department was examining short- and long-term parking solutions for downtown Hyannis.