TOWNSEND — Townsend’s Finance Committee is preparing to review budgets for the May 1 town meeting.
“By our next meeting we should have all the budgets. We’ll be able to get something done,” Chairman Paul Nicoli said at the January 19 meeting.
Town department heads have submitted their budgets requests to Town Administrator Andy Sheehan according to Carolyn Smart, a committee member and Administrative Assistant for the Board of Selectmen.
The Finance Committee set a time line to be ready to submit their recommendations by April 1.
Prior to the next meeting on Feb. 2, Andrea Wood, the committee’s clerk, will ask Sheehan to send electronic copies of the submitted budgets to the members of the committee. The committee members can look at the budgets and review them together.
Carolyn Sellars, a committee member, suggested the group meet with the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 16, then begin meeting with department heads in March if there are any questions.
“Every time we go to town meeting, the selectmen know next to nothing about the budget,” Wood said.
“They are responsible for so many departments. There’s a lot to keep track of,” she said. Last year all of the departments’ budgets were supposed to be level-funded, but the selectmen’s budget had an increase she said.
Meeting with the selectmen, as requested by Sheehan, will allow the board to know whether or not the Finance Committee will support the budget Wood said.
The two groups usually do meet before town meeting she said, “we’re just doing it earlier.”
Adding to the difficulty of planning the budget, the Finance Committee has yet to see any revenue projections for fiscal year 2013 Sellars said.
Sheehan will be attending a meeting at the Massachusetts Municipal Association over the weekend and should have a better idea of what state funding the town will get Smart said.
Other issues will impact the upcoming budget.
Seventy-five percent of the clean-up cost for the late October storm should be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Wood said. The expenses were covered by deficit spending according to Smart.
What the storm will end up costing the town is still not known.
Townsend spent about $100,000 to remove damaged branches and trees after the storm. The work was done by a private contractor and was documented by another company to meet FEMA reporting requirements Sheehan said after the meeting.
Another $40,000 was spent by the Highway Department with the help of police, fire and the cemetery and parks departments to clear the sides of the roads according to a memo from Highway Superintendent Ed Kukkula.
It is likely FEMA will reimburse the town for 75 percent of $100,000 bill Sheehan said.
“We’ll have to argue a little harder on the 40,” he said, “One of the challenges with FEMA is they have a very detailed reporting requirement.”
It is possible more of the bill might be paid for through the state. “We have submitted a request to the legislature to fund half of that remaining 25 percent. I haven’t heard anything from Beacon Hill on that,” Sheehan said.
Cutting expenses is another way the Finance Committee is looking at managing the budget.
Sellars urged the committee to reconsider the idea of pay-as-you-throw trash collection to decrease costs. The cost to an individual for throwing out more than is allowed would be “less regressive than making people’s property tax go up,” she said.
The current contract between the Board of Health and Shaw’s will accomplish the same thing Nicoli said. The number of barrels allowed per household will decrease over the next few years.
Shaw’s does not pick up excess trash without approval from the Board of Health. “You can call Shaw’s. They’ll come and get it and you’ll pay,” he said.