Absent final wage figures, $16.8M budget recommended by FinCom

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TOWNSEND — The proposed fiscal 2013 budget of $16.8 million was recommended by the Finance Committee despite the absence of final figures for reimbursement for municipal employees.

Selectmen held hearings for employees who questioned their positions on the wage-and-compensation matrix that went into effect in January. Final figures will be determined at the April 17 selectmen’s meeting, Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said.

“It’s not going to be in the tens of thousands,” he said at the April 12 Finance Committee meeting.

“How are we going to pay for it?” Sheehan said about the yet to be determined salary increases.

By looking at trends and with input from other town officials, Sheehan said he adjusted some amounts in the budget he presented to the committee two weeks previously.

He expects the amount of tax abatements the town will need to pay will decrease by $10,000.

Energy costs estimates for the library/senior center were reduced by $10,000 and the health insurance line went down $10,560.

Smaller reductions in other departments, including $1,128.60 for the town clerk salary, $3,126,75 for the assistant town clerk salary, $3,000 for fire/EMS stipend, $1,800 for the veteran agent stipend and $1,800 for veterans benefits brought the total spending reductions to $32,352.95.

“If we had more revenues, I wouldn’t have hit it. I wouldn’t hit most of these budgets,” Sheehan said.

The Finance Committee voted three to two to recommend the library budget of $216,567, the facilities maintenance budget of $217,377 and the communications budget of $285,496.

The library requested five additional staff hours weekly and funds to open on Sunday during the winter. The facilities maintenance budget increases hours by five a week and the communications center budget includes a new manager/information technology position.

“I think all of us are stretched to the max,” committee member and municipal employee Carolyn Smart said, but said she could not support the increase in staffing.

Smart and acting Chairman Andrea Wood voted against recommending the increases for those departments.

“We show a balanced budget here,” committee member Carolyn Sellars said. She, Nancy Rapoza and John Whittemore voted to recommend the budgets.

Other departmental budgets were recommended unanimously although final figures for personnel will not be available until April 17.

The Police Department budget decreased $17,663 from fiscal 2012. “It’s lower for a couple of reasons. They got two new officers and they do not qualify for the state’s half of the Quinn Bill,” Wood said.

When the state stopped funding payments for police officers with higher education, the town agreed to pay the state’s portion of the stipend to officers who were already receiving the payment.

The Fire Department budget, up $49,386 from the previous year, reflects increases in several line items, including software, Smart said.

Most of the increase is for fuel, Whittemore said. The increase also includes town-wide salary increases.

The assessment for the North Middlesex Regional School district was increased $197,686 above fiscal 2012 appropriations.

The school is requesting an additional $1.375 million increase from Townsend, Sellars said. This money is not in the budget and would be raised by an override.

“It’s not on anybody’s ballot yet. It has to go through Town Meeting first,” she said.

“They worked really hard in ’07 and got one through,” Smart said.

The Finance Committee did not vote on the Water Department budget. The department is self-funding with a $798,553 balanced budget.

Water Department employees were included in the wage-and-compensation matrix. Their budget shows larger increases than what were recommended by the study.

“They’re up quite a bit over what was recommended in the compensation plan,” Sheehan said, and they are going through the appeal processes with selectmen.