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. 
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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