Annual Town Meeting was held on Tuesday, May 4, at Auburn High School. While more ‘normal’ than last year’s meeting, which was held on the AHS athletic field, Town Meeting delegates were still spread throughout the building. Members were seated in the cafeteria, auditorium and some chose to participate from their vehicles.
Another first for 2021 was wireless electronic voting. Each Town Meeting Member was assigned a wireless voting fob that allowed them to cast their vote from their seats. The votes were displayed in a spreadsheet which was projected on a screen at the front of the room so that delegates could see that their vote was properly registered. There did not appear to be any problems with the voting system throughout the evening, and it most certainly sped up the process of counting hands, particularly on closer votes and motions requiring a two-thirds majority.
As is the case most years, the majority of the articles are formalities; State law and/or Town bylaw require Town Meeting to annually approve functions such as maintaining revolving accounts, applying for grants, and allowing the treasurer to keep banking accounts.
Article 3 was the fiscal year 2022 budget of approximately $72 million. This represents about a 1.8% increase over FY2021, with the Town utilizing about 2.1% of the 2.5% allowed tax levy under Proposition 2 1/2. According to Town CFO / Asst. Town manager Edward Kazanovicz, Auburn has not taxed to the full levy limit in over a decade.
“Look around at other communities in our area and none can say that. Many are looking for overrides to meet operational expenses. Auburn has excess tax levy, free cash and a healthy balance sheet.” stated Kazanovicz. Kazanovicz also pointed out that there was no increase in the tax levy for fiscal year 2021.
After several questions, the FY 2022 budget passed comfortably.
A number of the articles pertained to shifting previously appropriated but unutilized funds in order to match a $505,000 grant offered by the Arthur and Martha Pappas Foundation. The funds are to be used to construct an addition to the library as well as improvements to the adjacent Goddard Memorial Park. Several Town Meeting Members rose to speak about the project, with the only real sticking point revolving around the proposed construction of a pedestrian bridge that would span the brook and connect the library to the park.
After the initial discussion when the first of 8 related articles was motioned, all of the related articles passed unceremoniously with a strong majority.
Ultimately, all but one article passed, with the lone motion being deferred to a future meeting.
The meeting adjourned shortly after 9pm, about three hours after it began. There will be a fall special Town Meeting – date and time to be announced – to modify any budget items affected by changes in anticipated funding sources, particularly those from the state budget.