J.W. “Bill” Sheehan’s words proved prophetic, at least for the night.
Monday night, the Board of Finance held its first of a month’s-worth of meetings to review the town’s $81.96 million budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year, a 4.16 percent increase over this year’s $78.79 million total. Sheehan began the meeting by saying that the Board of Finance will likely go through each department’s budget in tedious detail, cutting $1,000 here and $50 there, but ultimately will do little to change the proposal.
“Any large reductions will mean that the Board of Finance decided that a certain program should be eliminated, a service should be reduced or eliminated or that a capital project be deferred to a later date,” Sheehan said. “I don’t expect that to happen unless the public shows up strongly recommending a cut of a particular service or project. In reality, during the next month, we’ll see the Board of Finance make small reductions around the edges of the budget.”
And that’s exactly what happened Monday night. The finance board reviewed six department budgets totaling several million dollars, and cut $10,000 from Public Health and Nursing’s proposal and $11,315 from the Recreation and Parks Commission’s budget. The cuts will have little impact on the eventual tax rate.
The projected tax increase for next year is not yet known, as the revenue projections have not yet been finalized, according to Finance Director Rudie Beers. Town revenues, which are mainly federal and state funds, will likely go down, Sheehan said. Without that finalized, the town cannot say how much more money it will need from local taxpayers.
The budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year is a 4.16 percent increase, or $3.28 million more, than this year’s total. The budget would take effect in July, and would be reflected in the July tax bills.
The biggest increase in the budget proposal overall is an increase in bonding to pay for the town’s five new schools. The town will spend $1.8 million more on school bonding next year, which represents roughly half of the increase in the proposal.
The Board of Education’s $44.62 million proposal is a $423,405 increase from this year’s $44.2 million total, or a 0.96 percent increase. Meanwhile, the municipal government’s operating budget increases by $1 million, from $28.6 million to $29.6 million, or a 3.63 percent increase, in the proposal.
The largest proposed increase for the municipal government is a $329,223 increase in insurance costs, mostly from a large increase in health insurance costs. The other large increases in the municipal government’s proposal is and $106,886 more for the fire department’s budget.
The Board of Finance can only cut the budget, it cannot add any dollars to any line item. The board will review all the department’s budgets this month and make a final recommendation on March 28th. Then the Representative Town Meeting will review and finalize the 2013-14 budget in early May.