Town Meeting passes $65m budget, but there were questions

By Nicholas Colvino, For Abington News

Abington Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved a $65 million budget Monday night but not before a series of questions about proposed increases.  

“Why are town managers’ salaries being increased by 10 percent?” asked Colonel Hunt Drive resident Cynthia Whiting. 

Town Manager Scott Lambiase said the budget increase was due to contractually obligated salary increases, as well as incorporating other positions into the line item.

Whiting, a former Finance Committee member, was the only person to ask questions about the operating budget. But she asked a number of them. 

“Is the school being funded by grants that are going into the budget?,” asked Whiting. 

The School Department budget does include a $100,000 federal ESSR grant that was used to help staff the schools during the pandemic. Some of those positions were included in this year’s operating budget, school officials said. The grant money will instead be used mostly to help fund math interventionists in the 5th and 6th grade. It is also to help with translation equipment for English language students. 

The school department needs a total of $29,067,611 for general education purposes to help the teachers and pay for the schools itself.

Whitint also asked why the town hasn’t hired someone to assist Wayne Norling, the town’s IT director, and whether the budget was sustainable in future years. 

Police officers and firefighters also have a new contract. Town Meeting approved more than $700,000 to find the first year of those pacts. 

Abington’s budget discussions have grown less intense in recent years, as the town’s finances have stabilized,and spending increased without the need for layoffs or overrides.  In recent years, budget debate has consisted of just a couple questions before moving to the vote. 

Cynthia Whiting had questions about the town budget during the Annual Town Meeting

The town is also funding $485,000 for a new ambulance that is greatly needed, according to Fire Chief John Nuttall. The capital spending item brought some questions from Finance Committee Greg Belezerian who questioned the big pricetag. The last ambulance was purchased in 2018 for $346,000. 

Nuttall said the ambulance brings in about $700,000 annually in revenue from patient transports, paying for itself in the first year. 

Town Meeting approved  a total of $1.6 million in capital projects and purchases funded through the town’s free cash . Those projects include $200,000 to replace student laptops, $105,000 for a new walk-in cooler/freezer at the Woodsdale, $100,000 for two new mowers for DPW, $210,000 to rewire the Routes 123/58 traffic lights, $167,000 for three new police cars, among other purchases.

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