Tewksbury Selectmen Receive Good News From Auditor, Approve 2014 License Renewals

Selectmen also reflected on the recent upgrade of the town's bond rating to AA.

Tewksbury selectmen at their Dec. 3 meeting. Photo Credit: Chris Gambon
Tewksbury selectmen at their Dec. 3 meeting. Photo Credit: Chris Gambon

Tewksbury selectmen received a presentation on an audit of the town's finances over this past fiscal year from accounting firm Powers and Sullivan at their Dec. 3 meeting. 

Richard Sullivan, a partner at Powers and Sullivan, told selectmen he believed it had been another sound year fiscally for Tewksbury, with strong management and responsible fiscal policies continuing to improve the town's finances. 

Standard and Poor's recently upgraded the town's bond rating to AA, citing a strong local economy and good financial management practices by town leadership.

"I think we had a good year this past fiscal year as you can see with our bond rating upgrade," Sullivan said. "To go from AA- to AA in an economy that's treading water, that's a significant accomplishment. "

Sullivan also stated that the town had achieved profitability for the third consecutive year.

"Three years in a row of decent performance and building reserves has resulted in this," Sullivan said. "You haven't kicked the can down the road."

Selectman Todd Johnson commended the work of Town Manager Richard Montuori and his staff in implementing the fiscal policies that led to another strong year for the town, as well as the bond rating upgrade.

"That is no small accomplishment in difficult times. That's in large part due to a lot of hard work by people in the town's employ," Johnson said. "It should not be lost on this community that through some difficult times we have worked very hard and had some very solid management to get to this point."

Sullivan also identified several areas where Tewksbury can improve their financial practices, including the creation of a disaster recovery plan.

Other liabilities Sullivan highlighted for Tewksbury included continuing to address the town's unfunded pension liability, a commitment of more than $160 million in post-employment benefit payments and more than $137 million in debt. 

Other News From Tuesday's Meeting

  • The annual tax classification hearing has been set for the next selectmen meeting on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at Tewksbury Town Hall. Town Manager Richard Montuori said he doesn't foresee a significant shift of the burden between commercial and residential taxes.
  • A public hearing was held for Cafe Sicilia owner Joe Mazzola who was seeking permission to serve liqueurs and cordials at his restaurant. Mazzola said the consumption of cordials after a meal is Italian tradition, and he was hoping to be able to offer his customers this option. Selectmen voted to table the hearing until their Dec. 17 meeting as they were still waiting to receive feedback from town department heads on the possibility of granting the license. 
  • A public hearing was held for Trull Brook Golf Course seeking permission to extend their hours of alcohol service. The change would allow the golf course to begin serving alcohol at 8 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. Trull Brook Superintendent Roy Trull said he is seeking the change in order to accommodate more golf tournaments, which generally look to courses that offer alcohol service starting earlier than 11 a.m. Selectmen Todd Johnson asked Trull if he would consider limiting the extension of hours from March to November, to coincide with golf season. Trull said he was open to the proposal, but selectmen voted to table the discussion until their Dec. 17 meeting as they were still waiting to receive feedback from town department heads on the possibility of granting the extension of service hours.
  • Selectmen voted to approve 2014 liquor license renewals, class license renewals, common victualler license renewals, entertainment license renewals and amusement device license renewals. All renewals are contingent upon any outstanding real estate, sewer or water bills being paid to the town by Dec. 31, 2013. 
  • Selectmen approved hours for establishments in town open and serving alcohol on New Year's Eve. Bars must stop serving alcohol at 12:45 a.m., consumption of alcohol must end by 1:15 a.m., patrons must be off premises by 1:30 a.m. and the bars must be closed and employees out by 2 a.m.
  • Montuori updated selectmen on two Tewksbury fire engines currently in need of repairs. The first, a 2002 model, would cost approximately $240,000 to refurbish, although Montuori said based on that cost it might make more sense for the town to purchase a new engine. The second engine in need of repairs, a 1999 model, would cost approximately $189,000 to refurbish. Montuori said these funds would need to be appropriated at Annual Town Meeting next spring or at a Special Town Meeting called before then. Wilmington has loaned Tewksbury an old engine to use in the meantime. 
Dan December 05, 2013 at 07:27 AM
Judging from the AD at the bottom of the page, "coming soon beer and wine and cordials" the selectmen don't have to worry about how the vote will be on the Cafe Sicilia
Gordon Pickguard December 05, 2013 at 08:40 AM
"Good News From Auditor" That's putting lipstick on pig ! As far as taxpayers are concerned the lead of this story was buried. "Other liabilities Sullivan highlighted for Tewksbury included continuing to address the town's unfunded pension liability, a commitment of more than $160 million in post-employment benefit payments and more than $137 million in debt." These figures represent never ending tax and fee increases. Taxpayers in Tewksbury must be chumps because we continue to allow our representatives, both elected and appointed to treat us like chumps. There are only a few moving parts needed to change this never ending fiscal death spiral : expand the tax base and make cuts to wage and benefit packages. Expanding the base, not so easy, however the cuts can be made at the next round contract expirations, in this regard our officials are either for us or against us as taxpayers (sic) chumps !
john smith December 05, 2013 at 09:35 AM
There you go Gordon blaming the folks who provide essential services for the town. You believe it is their fault because they expect to be paid for the job they do? News flash, it cost money to provide a work force and a living wage is appropriate. You really think cutting the pay of your average dpw worker, teacher, cop, or firefighter is fair? What they earn is a modest salary to perform necessary jobs. You may be the only chump based on your desire to strip town workers of what is fair. You should have become a teacher, or taken the police or fire exam so you too could live in such luxury.
Ray J December 05, 2013 at 09:45 AM
When most folks in the private sector work 35 to 40 years or more before retiring, maybe town employees should have to work longer.
john smith December 05, 2013 at 10:23 AM
Ray I hear what you are saying and I think you are thinking of state and federal workers pensions. They can retire after 20 years of service. Town workers cannot. Fire and police are the only town jobs where 55 is an acceptable retirement age due to the physical aspects of the job, and studies have proven why this is necessary. But even at 55 a cop won't get a full pension unless he has 32 years of service. Teachers, dpw, admin, maintenance, library etc., all work until a more typical retirement age. There are many many teachers who work until the age of 65 or 67 in order to get a full pension. So town workers really are not the issue because they typically put in the 32-40 years. State and federal workers, different story.
Gordon Pickguard December 05, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Dear John Smith, You obviously don't work or at least understand the world of private industry, otherwise you wouldn't keep repeating the word "fair". "Fair" is a code word used in public union PR campaigns. It doesn't exist in the world compensation based on market value. Public employees don't compete in an open labor market. This has to change. So from your post I gather that you're just fine with unfunded liabilities and debt because unlike me, you offered no plan or solutions except to say "it's not fair". Grow up and get real !
john smith December 05, 2013 at 01:17 PM
Merry Christmas to you Gordon. I have worked in all kinds of jobs both public and private and spent 6 years in the Army, so no "growing up" or "getting real" is needed. You need to get out of the conspiracy theory world and realize that the word fair is the same for any worker. You proposed wage cuts for town employees, that is your solution? Extremely insensitive to the hundreds of town workers. That's fair? It is not my job or the job of town employees to figure out how to fix a neglected responsibility that has been put off for decades. You are just a negative human being who has an axe to grind. Typical to always blame the evil unions when you don't have a real grasp of the situation.
Gordon Pickguard December 05, 2013 at 02:40 PM
"Fair" ? Now there you go again ! Oh, and please restate your post so that it makes some sense and reflects knowledge of the subject at hand. Also hold onto your assumptions about me to yourself because we all know that assumptions make ...
john smith December 05, 2013 at 03:20 PM
My post makes perfect sense to anyone but you, who's grand "solution" is to cut workers pay. In what world is that a good thing to do to people and their families? Wonderful suggestion. The town workers of today pay 11% into the pension system which is a proper %. The problem is previous generations of workers only paid 5%, and the town did not contribute what they should have for decades. Now you want to cut the pay of today's workers, and I am wrong according to you? Yeah here we go again, how is that fair? Really not an issue and I don't know why I have even engaged in this with you because wage cuts are not going to happen, because it is just not right, and real leaders know that. Go ahead, pick this apart Gordy, I really don't care what you say, you are wrong.
Prometheus December 05, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Please look and see what "fair" has done to Detroit....is losing one's pension at seventy years old fair?....is going back to work at eighty fair? Is waiting 2 hours for a police officer fair? Fair is nice don't get me wrong....I however would prefer things to WORK.
john smith December 05, 2013 at 03:36 PM
I agree prometheus, poor planning and bad management can lead to that. Pension systems that typically fail are ones that have zero employee contribution, like many around the country, and also a lack of planning on the part of town/city leaders.
Scott Wilson December 05, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Much discussion about good topics but I prefer to deal with facts. The first is that the budget increases we have seen have primarily been in the area of debt which is voted at the ballot. The second is that for a number of years now (and I can't say exactly how many) our town employees and the town are properly funding pensions. The area that has not been addressed is past practice dealing with pensions and health care. If you don't think town employees (all) have not sacraficed, then you haven't paid attention. They went 3-4 years without a raise. They have worked with management to make changes to health care which cost them money. And they are paying a minimum of 11% to fund their pensions. As for expanding the tax base, that is why all 5 BOS felt the Casino would have been a nice addition. I realize it would not have solved all problems and yes, there were legitimate concerns, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. As for current solutions - we are already paying down our pension liability which is expected to be paid in 2035 and this year we finally set aside money to begin paying down the healthcare liability.
john smith December 05, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Great points Scott and I must commend you and others on the board for many great things happening in town of late. I agree 100% that it is the methods of the past that are why we are having to deal with these kinds of issues today. Current town employees are not to blame and should not be responsible for the past. That was all I was saying here. Wage cuts are simply not appropriate, or here it is, fair.
Gordon Pickguard December 05, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Now there you go again. "Fairness" is the fantasy world of public employee unions. It exists in no other labor markets. Just tell me how many more tax increases will be enough ?
Gordon Pickguard December 05, 2013 at 08:47 PM
@ Scott, I appreciate your efforts in the public arena and I am with you on the casino's and especially charter reform, however I am convinced that the changes you've addressed are indicative of a man treading water, gasping for breath as the tide rises, not a man swimming to shore, confident of survival.
john smith December 05, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Gordon your pessimistic attitude is clearly deeply engrained in your thought process. Nothing would satisfy someone like you. Like Mr. Wilson said, things are changing for the better, and you still find the negative. Quite sad and I feel sorry for you.
Scott Wilson December 06, 2013 at 09:32 AM
I can assure you that we are doing much more than treading water. In 2009 when I first got elected, I felt as though I was on the Titantic. Huge deficits, little planning and a very unclear future. We are now providing similar service to residents at a fraction of the cost. Last month when the department heads came in we had a great discussion about how we continue to provide a high level of service while we've cut the budget. We've seen the School budgets increase which are a benefit to our home values and our children. We've had a modest 2% increase in Public Safety, though our Police and Fire are making more arrests and providing ambulance/fire services accross our town. Our pension cost has increased but it is still less than if we were paying into Social Security for our employees. Health Care has increased but employee contributions have also increased. Due to our improved S&P ratings over the years we have retired the majority of our non-exempt debt and with our current debt at about 5% of our budget, we are doing very well. We're not swimming to shore, we're on solid ground and heading in the right direction.
Dave December 06, 2013 at 09:57 AM
Why are the streets in such disrepair and have been since the late 80's?
Gordon Pickguard December 06, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Scott, You're pointing out increased costs of schools, fire, police, ambulance, pensions and health care ? Can we pay for all these increases without tax and fee increases (excluding the already approved debt exemptions) ? These are all areas I'd like to be flat or decreased, and yes, done without a drop off in services. Continued increases justified with dubious metrics is like the man swimming against the tide, it only looks like he's making headway.
Donna Marie Robitaille December 23, 2013 at 06:26 PM
The Town of Tewksbury ought to incorporate ways to generate new tax dollars, into their master zoning plan. I think it is fair to say that from now on..our community deserves more from those wishing to do business here. Taxes are not an even deal anymore.We are at capacity for Main Street traffic ,as well as too heavy traffic on SalemRd,SouthSt,EastSt,ECT...Our wetlands have been developed nearly to capacity. There are many more good reasons why the town of Tewksbury could adopt a morituriam on building. Simply to stop would solve the huge problem of continued negative impacts from future development. I,however,prefer the idea to get more from the get go. The town can ask for a museum at the permit process if thats what we want. The point is that we get more than just the tax base. Lets think positive about this avenue. Merry Christmas to all our Town officials and depts and above all to our fire and police depts.


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