Budgets and bylaws: A Town Meeting primer

Apr 16, 2024

When Wareham gathers for Town Meeting on Monday, April 22, residents will get to vote on the town’s $81.5 million budget, over $5 million of capital expenditures and a handful of changes to town bylaws. 

It will take place at the Wareham High School auditorium starting at 7 p.m. All registered voters are eligible to attend and participate. 

Residents at Town Meeting will also be able to vote on a citizens petition that asks the town to remove a limit of three on the number of retail cannabis establishments allowed in the town. 

Wareham’s proposed $81.5 million budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, is a roughly 4% increase from last year’s $78.4 million budget. 

This increase comes from a combination of contractual salary increases and inflation-related cost increases, according to the Finance Committee. 

If accepted, Wareham Public Schools will receive a $1.1 million increase to its budget, from $33.5 million last year to $34.6 million. Despite the increase, this figure falls short of the approximately $37 million that would be needed to to maintain an even level of services in the district. 

The reduction from the even level of services is in part due to the removal of pandemic-era funding programs, including the American Rescue Plan. 

School Committee Chair Kevin Brogioli highlighted how everyone knew that the American Rescue Plan Act funding was only a temporary fix. 

Brogioli said, “I remember saying, ‘We know we're getting this now. We know down the road we're going to have to account for that,’ and that accountability is coming now.”

School expenses accounted for the largest increases in the Fiscal Year 2025 budget, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said. "Our biggest increases are education and then the employee benefits and then the state aid and the state assessments, which are also mostly the educational assessments.” 

Residents will also vote on $5.7 million in capital requests from town departments. 

Wareham Public Schools is requesting $350,000 for three 77-passenger school buses and $150,000 for two nine-passenger buses, as well as $1 million to continue fixing the Middle School roof. 

The Wareham Free Library is requesting $2.3 million for repair and replacement of its HVAC system. 

The remaining expenses include $375,000 from EMS, $65,000 from Police and $1.43 million from Municipal Maintenance. 

Several items on the night’s agenda will address town bylaws and changes to the Wareham town bylaws. 

Voters will decide if the Town Clerk can make “non-substantive” formatting changes to the town bylaws such as changes to sequencing, numbering and lettering. 

This would allow the Town Clerk to clean up some of the “confusing” formatting currently present in the bylaws, according to the Bylaw Review Committee. 

Years of revisions have led to some incongruities — for instance, one part of the bylaws has two sections titled “Article 1,” while another is missing an “Article 1” entirely, the committee explained.

Another item could decrease the number of Finance Committee members from nine to seven. According to the Finance Committee this change would make it easier for the Committee to form a quorum and do its work.