Apr. 22—MERRIMAC — Residents will be asked to approve an $18.9 million operating budget when the annual spring Town Meeting gets underway Monday.
Finance Director Carol McLeod said the annual operating budget is up 7.8% over the previous $17.5 million allocation.
"We started off down about $315,000 when we had all of our department send in their budgets," McLeod said. "So we had to do a lot of work to get this to a balanced budget."
McLeod said the town's full debt service for the $146.2 million middle and high school, which is under construction, is now on the books and accounts for a majority of the budget increase.
"Last year, the debt for the middle and high school was $864,000, now it is $1.6 million," McLeod said. "That will be the full, estimated borrowing and there won't be any more increases."
Last spring, voters rejected a proposal for a $190,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override to fund the addition of two new police officers.
McLeod said safety was her top concern when crafting the proposed operating budget, which includes roughly $50,000 to fund a new police officer beginning in January.
"Having two officers per shift is a really big deal and we don't have that," she said.
Voters will also be asked to approve a $1.2 million request to purchase a multipurpose fire truck for the Fire Department. The vehicle would replace a 1998 tower truck that failed to pass inspection.
Article 19 on the Town Meeting warrant asks voters to approve a change in the zoning bylaws prohibiting garage doors from facing the street unless they are at least two feet behind the property's front facade.
"I believe the setback used to be 19 feet from the front, so I believe this makes it a lot easier," McLeod said.
Voters will also be asked to approve a request by selectmen to change the Board of Health from an elected board to an appointed one.
"With COVID-19, it became apparent that the Board of Health was not functioning in the way that we needed it to function," she said. "The selectmen feel that, by being an appointed board, that allows us to try to get people with some professional experience on the board versus what is just a popularity contest, basically."
The Board of Health has three members and any potential changes at Town Meeting would take roughly a year to implement, according to McLeod.
"This has been a very, very difficult year to put the budget together," McLeod said. "I can't wait for COVID to be over."
The annual spring Town Meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, 115 Amesbury Line Road, Haverhill.
A request for $96,741 to replace the Bear Hill Road culvert will be voted on at the meeting along with $80,000 to replace a Highway Department dump truck and plow.
The replacement of two nonfunctioning HVAC compressor units and a nonfunctioning system backup pump at the public library would require $28,000 and $150,000 would be needed to perform the final closure work at the Battis Road landfill.
A total of $185,000 has also been requested for roadway repair and $310,000 proposed for solid waste collection and disposal.
Selectmen have requested authorization to acquire the land, rights and easements to accept Farrington Field Road as a town way.
Town Meeting warrant: www.merrimac01860.info/DocumentCenter/View/1994/FY2022-ATM-Warrant.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.