Selectmen last night approved a balanced budget, but said they want to see it reduced even further to minimize the burden on taxpayers. The $46M budget they approved would translate a tax increase of approximately 4.5% next year.
Selectmen said they’d feel more comfortable with a 2% increase for taxpayers, but to do that, the town would need to cut an additional $570K from the budget, money they said would have to come from the schools.
“We don’t see any other way,” Boland said after the meeting.
The selectmen reached a balanced budget by trimming $220K from the requests made by municipal departments, including police, fire, and DPW, along with eliminating $350K in capital items. The cuts to municipal budgets are in addition to the $420K eliminated by the schools last week.
Selectmen also decided to use $412K in overlay funds, which includes the $1.1M released after telecommunications lawsuits were settled earlier this year, to offset capital items like DPW equipment, road maintenance, and $107K for school technology.
While the police and fire departments will see increases next year under the approved budget — by 2.37% and 1.06%, respectively — the chiefs of both departments said they needed more to maintain services at the current level. Both said they would need to make cuts, but they didn’t know exactly where the reductions would come.
“I’m not sure where it’s going to come from,” Police Chief Jane Moran said of the reduction. “It’s going to be difficult.”
Moran and Fire Chief Mauro said about 90% of their respective budgets are allocated to personnel costs which are determined by collective bargaining.
The town has not yet ratified new contracts for any of its unions. Selectman John Rooney said the budget approved last night does not include any salary increases for union employees. If increases are won by the unions, the town will have to find the money elsewhere.
Boland said he would have liked to bring the budget down to a level that would mean no increase for taxpayers next year, but to do so would have required “significant layoffs” in town personnel.
You can read another account of last night’s budget discussion in the Metrowest Daily News.