Town Meeting wrapped up last night after 17 nights, more than 50 hours of debate and approvals to spend more than $200 million in fiscal 2008 and beyond.
Members supported the final pieces of the $194 million fiscal 2008 operating budget, including an $8.5 million assessment for Keefe Tech, no money for the stabilization fund, $400,000 for the reserve fund and $641,500 for snow and ice removal.
A home rule petition to build on Bowditch Field was referred back to the Parks and Recreation Department, which is expected to come back to Town Meeting in the fall with a revised master plan for the athletic complex.
The Keefe appropriations for Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton and Natick were approved at previous Town Meetings. Framingham students comprise more than three-quarters of the Keefe student body.
Keefe's fiscal 2008 budget still needs approval by the School Committee. That vote is expected to come Monday night at the regional board's monthly meeting, said Superintendent-Director Peter Dewar.
The proposal includes money for the expiring union contracts and eliminates one administrator's position and two teaching posts, he said. The budget for Keefe is $125,000 higher than recommended by Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley, but she assured Town Meeting members the move was justified.
Keefe is likely to get a $26,000 credit for transportation costs, said Kelley. That combined with an $11,000 surplus in the town's overall budget leaves the gap closer to $88,000, she said, a number well within reason.
That explanation did not sit well with member Dennis Paulsen.
"Spending money you haven't got in your pocket yet is kind of dangerous," he said.
The fiscal 2008 budget also includes $5.8 million in expenditures that do not require Town Meeting approval.
Town Meeting also supported Kelley's proposal to close the $1.7 million gap in this year's school budget, including more than $200,000 in reductions for schools, $300,000 from other town departments, a transfer of up to $300,000 in Municipal Relief Act money and a free cash transfer of more than $711,000.
"There's nowhere else to go," said Finance Committee member John Zucchi. "We need to support the schools. We need to solve the budget deficit."
Attendance for the final night of the spring session was the lowest of the 17 nights, with only 103 of 187 sitting members coming to Nevins Hall. There are 29 vacancies on the 216-member panel. The previous low was 119 on May 24.
Attendance peaked April 25, the second night of the annual session, when 150 members checked in.
The record for the most nights of an annual Town Meeting in Framingham is 22 in 1974, when members considered 99 articles. This year's annual session included a pair of embedded special sessions. There were 70 articles between the regular and special sessions.
(Craig MacCormack can be reached at 508-626-4429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)