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Hard times, high finance

After months of number-crunching, discussion, and collaboration with fellow boards, the Finance Committee completed work on a $33.9 million budget and gained unanimous approval for it from the Select Board on Tuesday. For this, all those involved deserve our appreciation.

Tasked by the Select Board with implementing a level-funded budget, the schools, DPW, and most other town departments eliminated hundreds of thousands of dollars from their spreadsheets—and, bolstered by an infusion of free cash, their efforts managed to create a small surplus of $53,000. And even then, as Town Administrator Tim Bragan pointed out this week, the hard-won surplus might well be consumed by as-yet unsettled labor contracts for teachers and DPW employees. (See story)

At the Select Board meeting this week, member Lucy Wallace said making the final cuts was like “peeling one last layer of the onion,” and indeed, town officials invested hours of their time struggling to bring the budget into balance. As members of the public, perhaps the least we can do is try to educate ourselves ahead of Spring Town Meeting about aspects of the town budget of particular interest to each of us. For some, it might be the schools, or the roads; for others, reduced hours at the Transfer Station.

But please note: To reduce costs, the warrant for Spring Town Meeting will not be mailed to residents. Copies will be available at Town Meeting, but anyone who wants to know the details beforehand will need to print it from the town website or retrieve a copy from Town Hall or the library later this spring.

Better yet, make sure your subscription to the Harvard Press is up-to-date and follow our reporting in the weeks leading up to Spring Town Meeting. There may be no finance booklet and warrant in your mailbox, but you’ll be assured of receiving the Press’s special edition the week of Town Meeting with thorough analysis of the most important warrant articles, a guide to Town Meeting for newbies, our signature “Warrant in Plain English,” and much more.

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