Mattapoisett passes full slate of articles at Special Town Meeting

Nov 8, 2021

MATTAPOISETT — Voters approved all 11 articles at Mattapoisett’s Special Town Meeting on Monday, Nov. 8, giving final approval for an updated ORR agreement, authorizing the purchase of a new fire truck, and moving money into a series of stabilization and reserve funds.

With Mattapoisett’s “Yes” vote on Monday, the Tri-Town is finally set to update the 35-year-old regional agreement that governs Old Rochester Regional Junior High and High School.

The most significant changes to the agreement included the creation of a capital stabilization fund that will help pay for routine maintenance and a change to the way the schools are funded that will make each town’s annual contribution more consistent.

The updated agreement will also change the start and end dates of school committee terms to better line up with the school year.

The new agreement had already been passed by Marion and Rochester at their respective Special Town Meetings last month and has now been officially approved by all three towns.

“We are extremely excited because we know the renewed agreement will be beneficial to not only the school district but the towns as well,” said OR Superintendent Mike Nelson who added his thanks to OR School Committee Chair Heather Burke for her leadership throughout the process.

The bulk of the other articles at Mattapoisett Special Town Meeting focused on apportioning this year’s unusually high amount of free cash into various reserve and stabilization funds. “Free cash” is money that is leftover at the end of a fiscal year because of underspending in the town budget or underestimations in the revenue that would be collected.

Mattapoisett had about $2 million in free cash at the end of the last fiscal year, the largest amount in town history.

“This year we have a slogan for Town Meeting,” said Town Moderator Jack Eklund. “Mattapoisett Special Town Meeting: land of the brave and home of the free cash.”

According to Town Administrator Mike Lorenco, the large amount of free cash is due to cost-saving measures taken during covid, conservative revenue estimates and federal funds appropriated to the town as part of pandemic response plans.

Of the approximately $2 million in free cash, about $1.3 million was spent or apportioned by various articles in the Special Town Meeting.

The largest of those expenditures was for funding capital improvement projects, which accounted for $760,000. The bulk of the capital improvement spending went to replacing one of the town’s fire engines, a $650,000 expense, but money was also allotted to repair a transfer station loader ($40,000) and to replace a Ford 550 pickup truck for the Highway Department that is used for plowing snow ($70,000).

Several other articles moved money from free cash into reserve or stabilization funds, which act as town “rainy day funds” for various purposes.

However, adding money to a stabilization fund does not mean that it can be spent freely by the town. Funds can only be withdrawn from a stabilization fund with a two-thirds vote at a future Town Meeting.

Of the funds being allotted money from free cash, the largest amounts went to the town’s capital stabilization fund and debt stabilization fund, which each received $150,000. Additionally, $100,000 was added to the Mattapoisett Other Post Employment Trust Fund.

Other approved free cash allotments included: $107,000 in supplemental funding for the 2022 fiscal year budget, including $50,000 for town employee benefits, $50,000 for town building improvements and repairs, and $7,000 for a new voting machine; $36,000 for cyclical annual property revaluation and town mapping; and $50,000 to establish a grant matching fund.