More on Southborough’s preliminary budgets – Town and K-8

On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen got another update on the FY16 budgets. It was a more positive outlook than they received in December.

Last month, Southborough Wicked Local reported that preliminary Town budgets would result in a 5.4% property tax increase. This week, Town Administrator Mark Purple and Treasurer Brian Ballantine informed the board that the figure is now projected at 2.86%.

But, that figure includes a lower projection of school budgets than those shared by the district Superintendent over the past two weeks.

Last week, Superintendent Christine Johnson presented a preliminary K-8 budget with a 4.54% increase. And earlier today, Southborough Wicked Local reported that the preliminary budget for Algonquin is a 5.58% increase.

Ballantine informed the board on Tuesday that he wasn’t privvy yet to the preliminary budget, but expects the school to follow the Town’s example.

The Treasurer said he and Purple met with the district Superintendent and Business Director last week. He stated,

“We pretty much disclosed what we expected right now and how if that changes, we kind of expect them to follow that. And they supported that. They’ve been great with that.”

Days after that meeting with Purple and Ballantine, Johnson presented to the Southborough School Committee. Her early total FY16 figure was $19,099,769.  (More on the K-8 budget further down.)

Since their last report to the board, Purple and Ballantine have worked with Town departments to lower costs. The new preliminary budget for the Town is $15,913,223. That’s up $439,336 (or 2.8%) from FY15.

Combined with a listed 3.3% increase for schools and other charges to the Town, the draft budget projects Southborough’s total expenditures at $50,591,636.

Some factors still need to be nailed down. One of those is the Town’s Salary Administration Plan.

Purple’s memo stated that the SAP increase has yet to be determined by the Personnel Board. Currently, the Town is conducting a Pay and Classification Study. Outcomes could impact that figure.

Another variable is state aid. The budget counts on level funding. But the Governor’s budget isn’t due for release until March.

Selectman Paul Cimino noted that earlier on Tuesday the Governor’s office said local aid would “stay where it is.” He furthered, “Let’s hope that stays his intention.”

Healthcare costs are also in flux. But changes shouldn’t impact tax bills.

Insurance is currently budgeted at a 5% increase. Questioned by Selectman Dan Kolenda on what Ballantine told selectmen that he is hoping for less than 3%. But any will be paid into the Town’s account to fund OPEB*.

For a look at the report presented in the selectmen’s packet, click here and scroll to page 2.

(Now back to the K-8 budget.)

The Southborough School Budget Subcommitttee is still working to refine the FY16 budget. Last week, Johnson said they are “looking at each and every line item as we move forward.”

The Superintendent told the committee that Southborough Town officials were shooting for 3.75%-3.9%. School Committee members didn’t question the early budget and were supportive.

Member Marybeth Strickland noted the many changing variables, including Kindergarten registration, retirements, and who’s moving in and out of the district (especially with special ed students).

She said, “Each month will let us refine that.” . . . “It’s a good start.”

In the meeting, Johnson explained the drivers of increased costs. The biggest factors were:

  • Contractual obligation, $623,778 (includes any multi-year contracts that included increases for this year – not just staffing costs)
  • Student Support Services, $443, 696**
  • Utilities, building maintenance & grounds, $46,831

After offset costs, the total projected increase was $829,705.

The subcommittee is scheduled to vote on a budget February 11th. They will then present the approved draft to the Advisory Committee on February 24th.

*OPEB stands for Other Post-Employment Benefits. Those non-pension benefits include future life insurance premiums and healthcare premiums, plus any deferred-compensation arrangements for Town employees. (To read more about the Town’s efforts to fund that, click here.)

**SSS incorporates Special Education services and English Language Learners. The ELL population has recently increased by 30%. (The SSS change reflects $182,506 reduction in Circuit Breaker reimbursement.)

(Photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

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