Outgoing Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek (standing) outgoing Finance Director Sandy Pooler (seated)
Calling it "not my budget, but our budget," Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek presented to the Select Board and Finance Committee a status quo FY17 budget with a modest 2.7% increase over last year that maintains services, doesn't use any reserves and doesn't require a Proposition 2.5 Override.
New growth of $750,000 via Kendrick Place, Amherst Office Park and Presidential Apartments was helpful on the revenues side, as was no increase in Health insurance costs for the 5th straight year, a feat Finance Committee Chair Kay Moran dubbed "remarkable."
But alas, this budget does not increase staffing to our beleaguered Public Safety departments. Although a police position is first in line should extra money materializes as the grant that funded the Neighborhood Liaison Officer runs out at the end of this fiscal year and may not be renewed.
Fire Department staffing will be "studied" this spring, but this being a "transitional year" Mr. Ziomek stated, "This was not a time to make substantial changes that would be felt for years to come." In 2015 AFD had it's busiest year in history.
New Fire Station to replace Central Station "A high priority for the town."
The DPW is also level funded although they will require a whopping $3 million bond authorization to complete phase 2 of the sewer addition to Amherst Woods.
Select Board gets a raise
The Select Board will be granted a pay raise from the current $300 up to $1,500 annually with the chair getting an addition $500. It will be interesting to see if the Select Board votes on that before the budget goes to Town Meeting.
In closing the Interim Town Manager said he was "Inspired every day by John (Musante). He would want good things to happen in Amherst. With him the glass was more than half-full, it was always three-quarters full."
Select Board member Andy Steinberg thanked Ziomek, who returns to his Assistant Town Manager role at the end of the month, saying he "did an amazing job. He stepped up when we needed him to do so, under extraordinary circumstances."