TOWNSEND — The numbers were not finalized as of press time, but it appears local voters will be asked to approve an essentially level-funded budget for Townsend at the Annual Town Meeting.
Draft numbers distributed by the selectmen’s office showed a town operating budget of $16,017,827 for Fiscal 2011, up from $15,887,476 ($130,351) from the current fiscal year.
However, town administrator Greg Barnes expected the FY11 numbers to come down slightly for town meeting, saying the draft figures don’t include some anticipated adjustments to the town’s debt service. He said the numbers wouldn’t be finalized until a joint meeting with the Finance Committee on April 29, but he expected the final figures to be very close to the FY10 numbers.
“It’s going to be about the same as last year, let’s put it that way,” said Barnes.
The town omnibus budget will be Article 15 on the warrant for Annual Town Meeting, which begins on Tuesday, May 4.
In the big picture, Barnes described this year’s budget as “tight, but balanced,” saying local officials began the budget process with a projected deficit of $140,000, but were able to whittle that away.
Barnes also stressed that union concessions have been part of the town’s cost containment strategy the past couple of years. He said the police, dispatch and highway unions all deferred a contractual 2.5 percent pay increase during the current fiscal year. Barnes said those unions will receive that pay increase at the beginning of Fiscal 2011, but added that no other such increases have been budgeted for the coming fiscal year.
In terms of services, Barnes said no major changes are planned for the coming year, though he added negotiations are ongoing to reduce another police officer position by attrition.
Recently retired Board of Selectmen Chairman Dave Chenelle said they planned for the worst when building this year’s budget, saying they budget scenarios were built that assumed cuts of up to 10 percent in state aid. While the general expectation now is that the state will deliver a lesser cut of about 4 percent, Chenelle said their intent remained delivering a budget with minimal impact on both tax bills and services.
“The intent of the Selectmen was to present a balanced budget, with a zero percent increase from this year to next year,” he said. “There were some positions that remain unfilled, but nobody was laid-off.”
Other financial articles are as follows:
* Article 16 seeks an appropriation of $801,405 to operate the town Water Department for the coming fiscal year. Of that sum, $650,405 would come from enterprise funds collected from rate payers, with another $150,000 coming from the general fund, to cover the cost of inter-municipal expenses.
* Article 18 seeks up to $7,200 to purchase a multi-function copier, printer, scanner, and fax machine for the EMS-Fire Department headquarters.
Fire Chief Donald Klein said his department is looking to replace a pair of aging copiers, which are being kept online by parts salvaged from a third copier, because parts are no longer manufactured for the machines.
* Article 13 proposes using funds from a class-action lawsuit to pay down debt that’s being carried by the town Water Department, according to Town Accountant Kim Failes.
The article proposes using $324,000 to pay off the remaining bond anticipation noted for the purchase of Witch’s Brook Water Company, and using another $92,212 to pay down bonding from the purchase of the Dudley Road Water Main.
Total cost of both projects is equal to the $416,212 class action settlement the town received in FY09, as one of many communities that sued oil companies for using water-contaminating, methyl tert-butyl ether in gasoline.
Failes said Townsend’s water supply did not suffer any material damage from the chemicals, but the town was still able to participate in the lawsuit. Since the money was one-time funds, she said the town opted to use that money to pay-off debt that’s being carried by the Water Department.
* Article 11 proposes returning $27,760 of low-interest loan payments to a grant program called the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust, said town accountant Kim Failes. The program provides loans to help income-eligible households keep their septic systems compliant, and repayments of the loan are made to the town, which turns around and returns that money to the grant program, she said.
*Article 17 seeks a vote to fix the salaries and compensation of all elected officers of the town. No wage increases are being sought for those positions this year.
* Article 12 seeks an appropriation of $4,000 for the Assessor’s Periodic Inspection and Property Verification of local property values, as mandated by the Department of Revenue.
* Article 4 proposes transferring $300,000 from the Ambulance Receipts Reserved for Appropriation Account, to supplement the FY11 EMS/ Fire Department operating budget.
* Article 7 asks to continue the Recreation Revolving Account, which uses revenue collected from recreation programs to continue programs organized by the Recreation Commission, with the total not to exceed $52,000.
* Article 6 asks the continue the Board of Health Revolving Account, which allows revenue collected from recyclable items toward operating costs of Recycling Center, Landfill and Curbside trash pickup budgets in FY11, with the total not to exceed $30,000.
* Article 8 asks to transfer $11,610 from the Cemetery Sale of Lot Fund into the Cemetery Improvement Fund.
* Article 9 asks to continue the Cemetery Cost of Internment Revolving Account, which credits revenue collected from burials to defray operating costs of Cemetery Department, with the total not to exceed $30,000.
* Article 5 proposes transferring $4,900 from the West Townsend Reading Room Receipts Received for Appropriation Account, to supplement the FY11 West Townsend Reading Room Expense Account.
* Article 3 proposes transferring funds from the Comcast Government Access Account to supplement the FY11 Management Information Systems Expense Account.