Dozens gathered at the Jacobi Community Center Wednesday afternoon as Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer and Town Moderator Jack Attridge previewed the upcoming Town Meeting as part of the Council on Aging’s Speaker Series.
During the event, both Kezer and Attridge gave a detailed rundown of how the Town Meeting process works and how the articles on the budget could affect residents in attendance. After their presentation, those in attendance were given the opportunity to ask questions.
On May 1 at Veterans Middle School at 7 p.m., Marblehead residents will be asked to vote on 54 articles that will have a number of financial and governmental impacts on the town. If Article 31, which entails the proposed override for the town’s budget, is passed, it will be put on the ballot at the town’s election in June where residents will then decide if the override is put into effect.
Though Town Meeting can be a stressful and eventful time, Attridge began the event by stating how fortunate Marblehead is to be able to have Town Meeting.
“Considering the fact that we’ve been through poverty, we’ve been through disease, we’ve been through hardship, our entire downtown has burnt down twice, we’ve lost a great deal of our population over that time, ” Attridge said. “It’s an honor that we have this privilege to have our Town Meeting form of government for all this time.”
He also mentioned that the intention is to keep Town Meeting to a two-night event, though with 54 articles that is no given. Town officials are also preparing for at least five articles to be indefinitely postponed.
Kezer highlighted a number of articles that he identified as either of major importance, or ones that could generate a fair amount of discussion. He mentioned that the Articles 9, 10, and 11 deal with the purchase of vehicles for various departments or capital spending for building maintenance.
He then moved on to Article 29, which deals with the free cash reduction; Article 30, which entails the town budget; and the proposed override in Article 31.
“Article 30, that’s the big article that is the town’s budget for doing all of the business it does,” Kezer explained.
The budget for fiscal year 2024 in Article 30 would “increase the bottom line by about $1.2 million,” he added.
Article 39, Kezer explained, involves a zoning amendment that will allow for property owners to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as secondary housing. By allowing ADUs, it would potentially create more affordable housing for family members of property owners who want to live nearby, and another source of income for property owners.
“This is the zoning that allows [property owners] to put a secondary living quarters in existing single-family homes,” said Kezer. “It doesn’t say that people have to meet certain affordability requirements, but the mere fact that these are small units and that there will be more of them gives more options for people to have homes”
Additionally, Attridge mentioned a new software in the presentation that will allow residents to easily view the town’s financial status.
“Marblehead purchased a program called ClearGov,” said Attridge. “Over the next year, ClearGov is going to allow us to granulate our budgets down to kindergarten level. It’s going to allow us to all see where our money is being spent.”
With outdated technology and software causing issues in tracking finances, Attridge said this software will allow officials to keep better track of what requirements the town needs to keep services running as they should.
Both Kezer and Attridge responded to a number of questions pertaining to the town’s financial status. Many residents wondered how the town arrived at its current deficit.
“Part of the reason of the $2.5 million override is to address the operating budget side,” Kezer said. “We’re good on the capital side. The stress on the town is on the operating budget side, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on and trying to address.”
Kezer also mentioned other important articles, including Article 47, which would repeal the gas leaf blower restriction; and Article 48, which would allow law enforcement to fine operators of the blowers for not obeying the restrictions if Article 47 does not pass.