The Rockport Select Board met March 23 and recommended expenses totaling approximately $6.5 million for the town’s 2020-2021 fiscal year budget. A finalized budget will be presented for voter approval at the Town Meeting; the meeting was set to be held June 10, but the board voted unanimously to postpone the meeting and the June secret ballot to a later date, as yet unscheduled.
Taking precautions in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Select Board members Debra Hall, Doug Cole, Denise Kennedy-Munger, Mark Kelley and Town Manager Bill Post spread out from one another in the Geoffrey Parker Meeting Room of the Rockport Opera House, bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes on tabletops; board member Jeff Hamilton participated in the meeting via conference call.
The Select Board approved the following expenses, which are expected to go before the Budget Committee for final approval March 24.
General Government: $1.5 million. This includes approximately $51,000 for administration costs, $390,000 for Town Manager, $247,000 for Town Clerk, $180,000 for Planning and Development, $204,000 for the Finance department and $201,000 for Assessing. $153,000 would be appropriated to the Town Office building and $73,000 would be spent on insurance.
General Assistance: $27,000 would be appropriated for public assistance in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Public Safety: $1.79 million. Of this, $648,000 would be appropriated to the Rockport Police Department and $565,000 to the Rockport Fire Department. $324,000 would be spent on “other public safety services,” and $191,000 would be appropriated to the Rockport Harbor Master.
Public Works: $1.9 million. Approximately $1.73 million would be appropriated to the Public Works department and $176,000 would be spent on sanitation.
Culture and Recreation: $803,000. $446,000 of this would be used by the Rockport Public Library, $115,000 would be spent on parks and $167,500 would be appropriated to the Rockport Opera House.
Long Term Debt Payments: $284,000.
County Fees: $110,000. Approximately $74,000 would be spent on emergency and 9-1-1 service, and $36,000 would be spent on dispatch services.
Cemeteries and Special Assessments: $70,000.
Revenue: $2.2 million. Voters will be asked to appropriate this amount as revenue from the following sources to reduce the property tax assessment for the 2020-2021 fiscal year:
General Government: $1.2 million
Public Assistance: $13,000
Public Safety: $307,000
Public Works: $187,000
Culture and Recreation: $210,000
All other - cemeteries: $14,000
Unassigned fund balance: $30,000
Special Assessments: $226,000
Following the budget workshop portion of the meeting, Post recommended to the board that they consider postponing the Town Meeting from June to a later date, as yet to be determined. He said that recently passed state legislation in light of COVID-19 allows towns such as Rockport to move their Town Meeting date.
“We are allowed to move that Town Meeting date and I would recommend that we do that. At this point I would simply say it just needs to be postponed for right now without a rescheduled date because we don’t know what the situation will entail moving forward,” said Post.
He said that because the town has not yet posted the warrant for the meeting, the board wouldn’t necessarily need to make a motion to move the date of the meeting; Rockport’s Town Charter indicates that the Town Meeting should be held on the second Tuesday in June but the recent legislative changes stipulate that the meeting date is notwithstanding any charter.
Board Chair Debra Hall made the following motion, which was approved unanimously by the board: to postpone the Town Meeting and secret ballot and all associated public hearings or committees that are necessary thereto to a date uncertain.