Southborough’s budget outlook for next year ‘bleak’

If you thought this year was a tough one for municipal budgets, get ready for what might be coming next year.

At a meeting earlier this month, selectmen expressed concern about how things are shaping up. “It’s safe to say we won’t have any more money this year than last,” Selectman Bill Boland said.

In fact, the town may have less money to work with. Finance Director Brian Ballantine said a decrease in revenue collections from things like excise taxes, licenses, and fees, has lowered the town’s free cash fund by about $500K.

For the current fiscal year (FY2010), the free cash fund was $1.8M. For FY2011, which starts next July, the budget is expected to be more like $1.2M.

Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said increased delinquency in property tax payments also has them concerned.

Combine that with potential cuts in state funding, and Chairman Sal Giorlandino said the budget picture is “bleak, to say the least.”

Selectmen discussed asking all town departments to submit two versions of the budget for FY2011: one that uses the same dollar amount as last year, and one that represents a 3% decrease. They said they may also have to consider additional ways to save money — for example, by eliminating merit increases for town employees, cutting back employee hours, and reducing the hours that town buildings are open.

Giorlandino said all departments, including the schools, will need to consider making cuts. “The pain has to be spread all around,” he said.

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