No cuts recommended to police, health budgets
SOUTHWICK- The Select Board April 7 reviewed the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget and recommended numerous cuts, but left the health and police budgets intact.
Select Board Chair Douglas Moglin said after the meeting that they “cut” millions of dollars from preliminary items. He said he had not yet totaled up how much was cut, but that a preliminary tax rate would be available for discussion when the Select Board meets again with the Finance Committee this week.
“We ‘cut’ millions, because some of the items in the preliminary numbers were just that, and some of those large expenses would have had to be bonded and spread out over a number of years, so it is hard to estimate the impact on the tax rate at this point,” said Moglin.
The Select Board and Finance Committee are scheduled to meet again April 13 at 5 p.m.. At that meeting they will reconcile the differences between the proposed budget and the cuts made during the Select Board review.
One of the few departments that did not face any significant cuts was the Board of Health. Moglin said during the meeting that it would be hard to say no to the Board of Health budget while we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart said that Southwick spent more than $20,000 for additional services to have a nurse working with the Board of Health. He said that Health Director Tammy Spencer also put in a significant number of extra hours because of the pandemic.
Board of Health Chair Dr. Jerry Azia had requested an additional $5,000 to cover the extra hours worked by Spencer. The Select Board agreed to add that request for $5,000 to the May 18 Special Town Meeting warrant.
The impact of the pandemic was clear as the Select Board members discussed budget priorities. When discussing broadcast infrastructure, Stinehart said that the town would have to address the need to broadcast from three different rooms in Town Hall. Moglin suggested that they take this item a little more slowly, as very few people from the public tuned in to watch town meetings throughout the pandemic.
“You can count on how many people showed up from the public on one hand,” said Moglin.
He said they should instead focus on the Select Board’s conference room or the Land Use hearing room.
Another department that did not face any initial cuts by the board was the Police Department. Select Board member Russell Fox made a point of saying that he only wanted to increase the police budget, and for it not to decrease by a single cent.
“I want to make sure we are sending the right message,” said Fox.