TOWNSEND — Though Finance Committee Chairman Joseph Berman is working toward a smooth fiscal 2007 budget season, it’s still too early to tell just how smooth the process will be.
”Hopefully, finances this year will give us a little more flexibility than in past years,” he said.
Berman said the department budgets are coming in for committee reviews. “Each department head was asked for a level-funded budget, then a wish list,” Berman said.
He explained that if there is money left over after the department budgets are funded, the wish list items will be addressed. “We will prioritize the list items, and if there are funds available, we’ll see what we can do.”
Town administrator Gregory Barnes said the Governor’s budget provides an increase in state aid for fiscal 2007. “We are fortunate there is a significant increase of 27 percent, or $380,000, in state aid this year. The majority of that is pretty much accounted for with the school budget increases they are asking for,” Barnes said.
The key to having budgets come out right, he said, is to cut expenditures, raise revenues, or a combination of both.
”We have cut expenditures significantly in the past few years. We will have some difficult decisions to make in the next few years, barring any major changes that would have to come from the state level,” he said.
One advantage Barnes sees for the upcoming year’s budget is time.
”We are working with it now, so we have plenty of time to look at everything,” he said, “We have the time to cut any expenditures and maximize our revenues.”
He added, “We are held hostage to larger forces than ourselves with rising costs in health benefits and energy costs. We will have to really look hard at raising our revenue sources.”
Barnes said as the departments meet with FinCom, each budget will be scrutinized. “I have no easy answers to the budget questions. It will be hard work and it will be very difficult at times. I don’t have a magic wand to make it easier,” he said.
Barnes said the next budget to be reviewed by the Finance Committee is the school’s.
”The school budget is the largest of all the budgets. We’ll see that one on Thursday night. I know they are asking for some increases.”