Town presents balanced $67.9M budget for FY19

May 10, 2018 by

Published in the May 10, 2018 edition


NORTH READING — The Board of Selectmen tackled an ambitious agenda Monday night.

For starters, over the course of four hours they completed the review of the Fiscal Year 2019 operating budget, signed off on the 40-article warrant for the annual June Town Meeting while voting on their recommendations, discussed the challenges facing the town related to its sanitation contract, which is set to expire June 30, and agreed with the recommendation of the Economic Development Committee (EDC) to pass over the lone bid received for the development of 102 Lowell Road.

Chairman Mike Prisco and Selectmen Steve O’Leary, Bob Mauceri, Kathryn Manupelli and Andrew Schultz also unanimously made joint reappointments to the EDC along with the Community Planning Commission (CPC) members present, Chairman Bill Bellavance and members Warren Pearce and Chris Hayden, endorsing regular member David Ferreira and associate member Tom Ollila.

Future housing

Town Planner Danielle McKnight also presented an overview of the CPC’s draft Housing Production Plan, a 100-plus page document on which she and Housing and Planning consultant Karen Sunnarborg have been developing with the aid of grant. Its main goal is to address the challenges of meeting the housing needs for all segments of the town’s population. It is exacting in its level of detail and was created in part with input from 800 respondents to their survey earlier this year.

Sunnarborg and McKnight will be presenting the draft to the community at a forum on Tuesday, May 22 at 7 p.m. held in the NRHS Distance Learning Lab and she was seeking the board’s support in attending this forum as the plan will lay the foundation for years to come and envisions how the town could evolve in the decades to come, particularly as it relates to meeting the 10% affordability goal set by the state.

She pointed out that the town is currently at about 9.65% of that 10% state goal based on the 2010 federal census, but this target moves continually due to the addition of new housing, and it will increase after the next census. In the long-term, the town will also need to address the expiration of the affordable units at Edgewood in 2038, she said. Currently, under the 40R permit, 102 of the 406 units meet affordable rental rates set by the state for this region but the town gains the benefit of counting all market rate and affordable rate units in its 9.65% total. Potentially losing that status will affect the town’s ability to gain “safe harbor” status from additional 40B permits.

Town budget balanced at $67.9M

With the completion of the departmental budget requests, Finance Director Liz Rourke presented an overview the town’s financial picture heading into the June 4 Annual Town Meeting. The good news is that both the school side and town side of the ledger is balanced.

The Financial Planning Team was working to finalize numbers for both the town and school budgets through Monday afternoon. Rourke reported that the town’s fixed costs are $21,136,132. The general government share of the FY19 budget is $16,019,958 while the school share is $30,746,137 for a total budget proposal of $67,902,137.

Rourke explained that this budget is based on revenues from the tax levy of $42,647,910; new growth of $508,000; debt exclusion of $6,266,511; and three types of local aid – unrestricted ($1,835,878), Chapter 70 ($7.083,527), and SBAB ($243,393). Additional revenue sources are local receipts of $5,267,358 and “other financial sources” of $2,679,328.

Both the school and town budgets were presented as “level services.” Due to the nature of rising costs from year to year, delivering a level services budget does not mean it will not increase over the previous fiscal year, therefore the budget as presented has increased over FY18.

In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2018, fixed costs were $20,871,618; the town’s budget was $14,586,643 and the school’s budget was $28,546,142.

Rourke pointed out the key drivers in the town’s expenditures that cause the bulk of the increase in the FY19 budget over FY18 were: health insurance: $253,795; sanitation: $284,239; regional school assessment: $69,380; county retirement assessment: $69,380; snow and ice deficit: $39.750 and Medicare: $21,364.

Revenue adjustments to balance the budget for FY19 included investment income ($250,000), debt capital stabilization ($148,363), motor vehicle excise ($100,000), license and permits ($55,000), penalties and interest ($20,000) and enterprise fund indirect ($13,366).

Lastly, Rourke reported that the town’s current cash reserves are as follows: Free Cash: $1,058,769; Stabilization Fund: $2,272,154; Capital Stabilization Fund $1,310,414; Water Infrastructure Stabilization Fund: $890,461; Solid Waste Stabilization Fund: $125,565; Water Retained Earnings: $1,001,902; and Cell Tower Fund: $670,243.

The budget, as presented, maintains a school-town split of 66% to the schools ($30,746,047) and 34% the town (general government) at $16,019,958, she said.

The town’s revenues are applied at 31% to fixed costs ($21,136,132), 23.6% to general government ($16,019,958) and 45.3% to schools ($30,746,047).

The Board of Selectmen has not yet voted on the budget recommendations as presented.

Sanitation in flux

Due to the crash in the worldwide recycling market, mainly driven by China, the town will see its first increase in the quarterly sanitation fee in 10 years, acting DPW Director Mark Clark informed the board.

The current fee is $56.50 per quarter and that fee will likely rise to about $68 per quarter for FY19, which would be reflected in the bill received by residents in August. That increase would have been closer to over $70 per quarter but Clark and Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto are recommending stabilizing that rate increase with $75,000 from the solid waste stabilization fund.

In years’ past, the trash fee was offset by the fact that the town could save money from the sale of its recycled goods.

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