TOWNSEND -- Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan presented his proposed fiscal 2015 budget to the Finance Committee Thursday night, recommending a 4.6 percent increase from last year to $18.49 million.
The increase largely stems from growing assessments for the North Middlesex Regional School District and Nashoba Valley Technical High School. Most town departments would rise by only the amount of obligatory salary and wage increases.
Sheehan had requested that North Middlesex lower its budget from the proposed 2 percent increase, which caused Townsend's operational assessment to rise by about 3 percent.
Although the North Middlesex Regional School Committee voted to adopt the proposed budget, members said they would continue to look for cuts to help reduce the blow for Townsend.
"We're still hopeful there will be some changes in the North Middlesex budget that may drop that assessment down a little bit, but we won't know for a few more weeks," Sheehan said.
Nashoba Valley Technical High School's proposed budget is a 5 percent increase from fiscal year 2014, with Townsend's assessment increasing by about 7 percent.
Other budget increases include rising health-care costs, an increase in energy costs and a bump in election expenses due to the gubernatorial election.
Health-care costs rose by about $67,000 on Sheehan's proposed budget.
Energy costs are also expected to rise due to a faulty gas meter in Town Hall, which caused the town to be undercharged for its energy use for the past four years.
A new meter has been installed, and Sheehan added $15,000 back to the budget to pay for the cost increases that will result.
Sheehan said he also added $5,000 into the building maintenance budget to bolster the town's infrastructure.
"Government in general has a less than stellar track record of maintaining its assets, so we want to try to stay ahead of some stuff. That being said, we need to live within our means, so as we can devote more resources to our buildings we'll do so," Sheehan said.
Although increased funding for road repair is not included in the operational budget, selectmen voted to add a $150,000 free cash appropriation article to the Town Meeting warrant to fund the improvements, Sheehan said. The town has about $931,000 in free cash, he said.
The Finance Committee also met with representatives from the Cemetery and Parks Department, who asked that a foreman position for 19 hours per week be upped to 32 hours. According to Cemetery and Parks Superintendent Roger Rapoza, the position became part time in 2006.
Increasing hours would result in a hike in the department's budget of about $13,600.
"While we appreciate that most departments have been level-funded over the past several years, this department has grown both in the number of employees and the areas of responsibility," Cemetery and Parks Superintendent Roger Rapoza wrote in a memo to the committee.
The foreman would supervise day-to-day operations, assist in decision-making and help train employees, Rapoza said.
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