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Citizens for Limited Taxation

Framingham TM voters say yes to increasing meals tax 10/29/2009
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Town Meeting last night approved a meals tax increase that will generate $650,000 this fiscal year and $1.3 million every year after.

Inside the Memorial Building's Nevins Hall, Town Meeting voted to increase the meals tax from 6.25 percent to 7 percent and to place that money in the stabilization fund.

For the town to maintain a good bond rating, the stabilization fund should ideally have $10 million. It is presently at $5 million. The lower figure could harm the town's bond rating.

Town Meeting seemingly confounded itself last night as members spent significant time discussing the workings of its governing process rather than the meals tax issue itself.

Members rose for numerous points of information and points of order.

Among the issues raised: splitting the article into two votes, voting on approving money for the stabilization before voting on the tax increase, and increasing the tax without making any provisions to the stabilization fund.

Questions about Town Meeting protocol also prevailed.

"This is all getting pretty convoluted," said Town Meeting member Tom O'Neil at one point.

In the back of the hall, the discourse prompted town officials to crack jokes about the need for a city form of government.

Town Meeting ultimately decided to split the vote of Article 19, with 76 people voting in favor of the tax increase to 29 people opposed.

Later, Town Meeting approved moving the money into the stabilization fund by the required two-thirds majority, with 100 voting in favor and nine opposed.

Town Meeting tonight will tackle the local room tax, which would increase the local tax from 4 percent to 6 percent.

Such a proposal could create $226,725 in revenue this year and $453,450 every year after, officials say.

In other business, Town Meeting approved several collective bargaining agreements.

Town management had reached tentative two-year bargaining settlements with six town unions. Public works laborers of Massachusetts Laborers' District Council Union 1116, Parks and Recreation employees of Massachusetts Laborers' District Council Union 1116, Parks and Recreation supervisors of Local 1156, the Framingham Library Staff Association Local 888, school crossing guards and Framingham Police dispatchers have all reached tentative agreements with the town.

In addition to covering fiscal 2010, the two year agreements retroactively cover fiscal 2009. It calls for no wage adjustment for fiscal 2009, a 1 percent wage increase retroactive to the first day of fiscal 2010, which as July 1, and a 1 percent wage increase on June 30, 2010.

The agreements will cost the town $123,819 in fiscal 2010 and $248,876 in fiscal 2011.

The agreement covers six of the town's ten collective bargaining units and 264 employees, or about half of the town's work force.

Police and firefighter unions, two of the biggest collective bargaining units in town - were not part of the agreement. DPW members of the Local 1156 were also not involved.

Town Meeting continues tonight at 7:30.

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