June 24, 2008

Tyngsboro Seeks Task Force to Iron Out Town Budget Concerns

By Chris Camire, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jun. 24--TYNGSBORO -- Though the start of the new fiscal year is days away, the budget remains at the center of Tyngsboro politics.

After getting through a million-dollar deficit last month, town leaders are now pledging to put together a task force to plan for Tyngsboro's financial future.

"We need to take a look at programs and services of each department," said Selectman Richard Lemoine at last night's meeting.

Lemoine made creating a financial strategic plan the cornerstone of his successful campaign for re-election this year. He said the town can become more efficient by partnering with other communities, and outsourcing and consolidating services.

Even though Tyngsboro just pulled through a $1.2 million budget deficit, officials predict the town may face yet another significant shortfall next fiscal year.

"We don't have a cereal box we can shrink in size to save money," said Selectmen Chairman Kevin O'Connor, referring to news that cereal companies are cutting the size of boxes due to cost increases. "Revenue is what it is. I don't see any sizable sums of money coming in to bail us out."

Lemoine and Selectman Karyn Puleo have sketched a plan and mission statement for the task force to follow. The group is expected to have seven members -- two selectmen, two Finance Committee members, two School Committee members and one community member at large.

Finance Committee members John Griffin and Kenneth Times lent their support to the plan last

night. Selectmen plan to reach out to School Committee members in the coming days, asking them to partner in the plan.

"We have to work with all three entities," said O'Connor. "Everybody is a stake-holder. And the taxpayers being stockholders are concerned with the direction this is taking. Are we unified?"

Officials are already looking beyond Tyngsboro's borders as they work on formulating a three-year budgetary forecast for the town.

Selectmen signed onto a new solid-waste and recycling collection contract last night that was jointly negotiated by officials in Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury and Tyngsboro over the last few months.

Under the agreement, the collection process will stay the same for the coming year. But July 2009 brings an automated trash-collection system, in which a mechanized arm attached to a trash truck will empty residents' trash containers.

Each household will be limited to one 64-gallon container under this system. Another container can be obtained for a fee.

The town has also negotiated a new contract for the collection of large items, such as refrigerators, stoves and televisions.

Starting July 1, residents will be charged $12 per item, instead of $20, and will purchase stickers directly from a private company instead of Town Hall, said Selectman Jacqueline Schnackertz, who served on the negotiating team.

A flier, detailing the new trash programs, will be sent out with the next tax bills.

"It shows that regionalization and economy of scale really does work," said Puleo, of the new agreements. "When we look at the way we all do business today, you realize it's not going to be the same down the road."


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