Without a quorum, two Town Councilors discussed the 2018 working budget with department heads, but made no decisions in the Nov. 14 Council meeting.
Only John Farrell and Tom Freda were able to attend the meeting.
Town Manager Kevin Smith has recommended a town operating budget of $31,066,194 for 2018, a .3.52 percent decrease from last year’s approved 29,749,182. If approved, it would be a $4.86 impact on the tax rate.
The budget proposes use of the unassigned fund balance for partial funding of contributions to capital reserves, expendable maintenance and roadway maintenance trust funds, resulting in the reduced tax rate impact.
The total budget including police detail revolving fund, special revenue funds, capital reserve/maintenance trusts, special warrant articles, and veterans overlay, is $42,034,843, a 44 percent decrease from last year’s approved $42,034,843. The total tax impact is $4.32.
In addition to the operating budget, other requests include the Town-Wide Communications Upgrade, $4,200,000, .028 cents on the tax rate; the special revenue fund for police details, $506,306, no tax impact; the Sewer Fund, $5,296,992, no tax impact; Roadway Maintenance Trust Fund, $650,000. $487,500 offset by the UFB for a tax impact of .043 cents; Capital Reserve funding for Fire Department equipment, $164,000, $142,000 offset by UFB for .006 cent impact on tax rate; Capital Reserve funding for Geographic Information Systems, $28,000, $21,000 offset by UFB for tax impact of .002 cents; a sewer expansion of $350,000, the total of which will be picked up by the UFB for no tax impact; Sidewalk work at a proposed $250,000, also to be picked up by the UFB for no tax impact; an Air/ Water Quality study estimated at $85,000, but to be covered by the UFB with no tax impact; adding to the Expendable Maintenance Trust Fund, $180,000, $135,000 funded by the UFB, $45,000 to be raised by taxation at .012 cents; and Capital Reserve Funding for the Pillsbury Cemetery expansion, $100,000, $75,000 covered by UFB for a total of $35,000 to be raised at .007 cents on the tax rate.
In addition, Police Chief Bill Hart is requesting two officers at $198,545 for both, including salary and benefits. While the tax impact is .052 cents, the cost will be covered by a COPS grant.
The Public Works Department is requesting two truck drivers at $158,070, salaries and benefits, for a tax impact of .042 cents. Finance Director Doug Smith said that there was an initial request for an additional secretary for the DPW but that that position has been removed.
The Architectural and Engineering study for the upgrades to the Central Fire Department is estimated at $350,000, with a tax impact of .092 cents.
All the additional requests, plus the Veterans Overlay Exemption, would result in an 11.30 percent increase in the municipal tax rate.
While they could make no official decisions, Farrell and Freda made suggestions as to how to whittle away at that 11.30 percent.
Farrell balked at the $350,000 for the architectural and engineering study for the Central Fire Station. “We could do it for half of that,” he said.
Budget Committee member Christine Patton questioned the $85,000 for the air and water quality study, noting that it had been $35,000 in a previous iteration. “Can you find someone who will come in lower?” she asked.
Kevin Smith said it was a revision from the contractor who did the baseline study.
Administrative Support Coordinator Steve Cotton said that the last air and water quality study was done in 2003 and cost $220,000 over a three-year period. “This time we are focusing on wells, surface water and air quality,” he said.
Farrell and Freda also asked the Town Manager and departments to sharpen their red pencils in regards to a possible senior transportation program and an upgraded communications system (see related stories).
“I want to be able to say we vetted this as far as we could,” Farrell said.