PEPPERELL– The Finance Team and the Finance Committee are butting heads over the fiscal 14 departmental budget requests.
Although they did not reach a quorum, the Finance Committee still met on Wednesday to speak with Town Administrator John Moak and Town Accountant Gene Ferrari about the fiscal 14 budget.
The Finance Committee voted at its last meeting to submit requests to the department heads for budgets at a 0 and 1 percent increase over the current fiscal year. Moak, who serves on the Finance Team, had initially suggested a request of 1.5 percent. However, the committee noted concerns over expenditures that are still pending. Some factors, among others, said committee Chairman Melissa Tzanoudakis, are unknown circumstances surrounding the fiscal cliff and not yet having the school’s budget.
With that in mind, she said, “We have concerns about submitting a 1.5 increase in numbers … As we get further in the budget process that might change, but at least from a preliminary standpoint, those are some of our concerns.”
The Finance Committee members wrote in their letter to department heads that along with the submission of the 0 and 1 percent budget descriptions, to mention any special circumstances for consideration.
“We’d be happy to look at that extra,” said Tzanoudakis.
Moak said he strongly disagreed with the 0 and 1 percent requests; he felt that the requests should fall between 1.5 and 2 percent.
“This is a public form. The first thing you should not be talking about on public form is what you’re going to cut…you should be talking where you can go and as you move along you talk about those hard decisions you have to make,” said Moak. “To come in with those hard decisions throws something out there that might not even have to exist.”
Committee member Holly Seiferth said she felt it was better to start small and increase the budgets if possible as time goes on.
“Once you come in with a budget that spends everything, all we can do it cut you. When you come in with 0 and 1 percent, we can only go up with whatever you came in with,” she said.
Committee member Forrest Rousch compared the budget process to looking at his family budget, taking into consideration certain unknowns such as the federal government and tax bills.
“With the unknown, I always budget for surplus,” he said.
Moak said that the budget would not be overspent at 1.5 percent. Unknowns, such as the schools, local aid, the fiscal cliff and health insurance, among other things, were all factors that the Finance Team took into consideration when they developed the budget. In the three years that the Finance Team has been developing the town’s budget projections, they have been “really close every year,” he said.
With all of those things considered, he said, he feels that 1.5 percent is conservative.
“We agonize over this stuff constantly,” said Moak.
The Finance Committee is meeting with department heads on Jan. 31 to discuss the budget.
“That’s one of the reasons we decided good idea to have joint meeting early on, so can address some of those kinds of issues,” said Tzanoudakis.