I believe that consolidation of utilities under one umbrella makes good financial sense for our town. Increased purchasing power for the "entire town" so that we can negotiate lower rates. If this is combined with tracking of energy units for all school and town buildings as suggested by Curt Freedman at last night's meeting, we should be able to more easily identify additional cost savings.
Last night (Special Town Meeting, 11/08/11) it was interesting to watch the extremely strong opposition expressed by School Committee chair to retain budget line items that are clearly not aligned to their primary mission of the School Department which is the education of our children.
The School Committee is not held accountable if energy costs unexpectedly go higher and the budgeted energy monies are insufficient. However, if there are energy/ utilities savings due to a mild winter and/or energy conservation measures, the saved money is not directly returned to the town's general fund but can be shifted to a different line item for other uses by a simple SC vote. If there was consolidation of town and school utilities, these savings would return directly to the town's General Fund since line item transfers on the town budget are not allowed.
I understand that according to the opinion of our Town Counsel, consolidation of utilities under the Town Manager is in accordance with our Town Charter. The Town Manager's budget instructions for FY2013 states a separate utilities budget for all town buildings including the schools will be established.
It sounds like we haven't heard the end of Article 4.... perhaps only for the current FY2012 budget year.