TOWNSEND -- The Finance Team is projecting a fiscal 2014 budget of $17,468,486. Town Administrator Andy Sheehan announced the number at the Board of Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday night.
With net revenues projected at $573,775 higher than fiscal 2013, and net expenditures projected at an increase of $451,550 from fiscal 2013, the town is projecting a net positive revenue of $122,225.
With a few exceptions, said Sheehan, the departments will likely be level funded for non-personnel expenses.
On the revenue side, the town projections show revenue of approximately $14 million from the tax levy. The amount is about $400,000 over fiscal 2013 due to two components: The 2.5 percent increase allowed by Proposition 2 1/2 and projected new growth.
Local aid is projected to remain approximately the same: $1,393,483. The town is also projecting a transfer of $203,500 from capital stabilization to fund the fiscal 2014 portion of the Spaulding roof project.
By far the largest contributor to the increased spending is the increase to the Middlesex Retirement assessment of $180,000. Because the numbers are set at the state level, member municipalities have no say in determining the assessment. Board members expressed displeasure at the substantial increase, especially, said Selectman Robert Plamondon, after reading some published reports of pension figures being received by some former employees throughout the state.
"I just feel like we're being slapped around and told to just 'come up with the money, don't question anything, we know what we're doing' kind of thing," said Plamondon. "One hundred and eighty thousand dollars is a lot of money. Here we are trying to be fiscally responsible and we're at mercy of buffoons in Boston who don't care."
Luckily for Townsend, another of their largest annual expenses, the North Middlesex Regional School District, is currently looking at an increased assessment of only .44 percent.
"It's a pretty gracious gesture on part of the School Committee and the superintendent," said Sheehan.
One of the largest reasons for the School Committee's projected number, said Sheehan, is to aid Pepperell after the state issued a requirement that all towns meet their target shares from regional school districts. Based on a formula including property valuations and income, as well as the fact that they hadn't met the amount in the past, Pepperell's minimum contribution increased dramatically, whereas Townsend's and Ashby's both dropped.
This year, Townsend is projecting an increase to the NMRSD assessment of about $57,000, most of which is for the debt of the Spaulding roof; the actual operational assessment is projected to go down by $189,000.
However, said Sheehan, he expects the number to be a one-year reprieve, and the assessment to increase at a much more significant percentage next year.
"We're not out of the woods by any stretch, and it's going to take us some time to get through. The effects of the recession and lack of growth and the state budget cuts and things are continuing to be felt and will be felt," said Sheehan.