WVN #482: FinCom considering draft budgets
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The Finance Committee is considering a draft of the final capital and operating budgets for Fiscal 2014 and will continue to meet with departments to discuss their recommendations. Whatever the final result, expect a tax rate increase in double figures.
Also in this newsletter: In response to residents' concerns, the site plan design of the proposed CVS drugstore and accompanying mixed use building in Cochituate continues to change.
BUDGET DRAFT IN PLACE BUT WORK REMAINS
After meetings on Jan. 14 and 17, the Finance Committee is considering a draft of the final capital and operating budgets it will place before voters at the April 4 Town Meeting. After dropping in Fiscal 2013, the operating budget is expected to increase in FY14, which begins on July 1.
The draft included "asks" -- department requests above FinCom guidelines. Not all of these "asks" are likely to be included in the final budget. Asks included the controversial WaylandCares budget, the full School Superintendent's proposed budget (backed by the School Committee), one new firefighter and one new police officer, salary for a budget analyst and an increased contribution requested by Minuteman Regional Vocational School.
The police and fire chiefs say that population growth, not the new Town Center development, calls for added staff. Wayland's population has changed little in recent years, but calls for public safety services have increased.
WaylandCares Would Add Town Staffing
The WaylandCares request, for a school anti-drug program heretofore supported entirely by federal grants, is $102,666 and has attracted controversy. The proposal calls for adding to the town (not schools) side of the budget, with plans to broaden the program in the near future.
When FinCom members asked why WaylandCares should be established as a separate town department and not part of the Board of Health or Youth Services, director Heidi Heilman replied that those departments could not accommodate program space and support needs. Furthermore, she said, operating under the town administrator makes sense because the anti-drug program crosses departmental boundaries.
The FinCom twice asked for clarification about town funding if a federal grant request is successful. There was no clear answer. Heilman said the grant application would be more compelling with Town funds also being expended. The budget proposal posted on the FinCom website does not include links to federal grant specifications showing preference for a municipality to be the funding partner. The grant application deadline comes before Town Meeting.
The request from WaylandCares had come under fire earlier from some selectmen who questioned assertions of the program's effectiveness. Without supporting data provided to the Board and the public, two selectmen found it premature to add it to the town's budget.
When the FinCom asked if the Personnel Board had voted on this matter, Town Administrator Fred Turkington said such a recommendation is not theirs to make. (The Personnel Board has in fact issued other written recommendations in the past to the Finance Committee.)
Posted meeting agendas and minutes show that WaylandCares presented its proposal to the Personnel Board in November, explaining new paid staff positions sought, and the Board considered it at more than one meeting.
School Request Backed, Questioned
Including some expenses paid by the Town side of the budget, Wayland's schools consume about 70% of the Town budget. A former School Committee chairman, Louis Jurist, urged the FinCom to ignore efforts by what he termed a minority of taxpayers to hijack the budget and to instead support the School Committee recommendation. One resident criticized the term "hijack" and urged fiscal discipline.
Danforth Project Impact
Another citizen warned the Finance Committee of possible new costs to the Town with the Board of Selectmen under pressure to approve a reduction in the mitigation coming from the developer of the proposed Danforth Green housing project in Framingham without enough due diligence. (See WVN Newsletter #481.)
Operating Budget Increase Expected
The operating budget decreased in FY13 mostly due to use of free cash, a reduced amount allocated for OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits for retirees) and to a tighter estimate of expenses resulting in fewer turn-backs of unspent funds. In years before FY13, overestimated budgets resulted in relatively large turn-backs.
The operating budget is expected to increase in FY14 if the FinCom guidelines and all the "asks" are included. Debt service for the proposed new Department of Public Works building was not included in the draft operating budget. Contracted employee salary increases and anticipated utilities price increases were included. It was assumed that a contribution of $1.3 million will be made to OPEB in FY14.
The tax rate was estimated to go up by around 14% from FY13. This would make the average tax bill (on a house assessed at $600,000) rise from FY13's $10,600 to around $12,100 in FY14. In FY13, due to a taxpayer-originated vote at the Annual Town Meeting in 2012, excess free cash was used to lower the amount of needed revenue. However, in the beginning of FY14, the free cash balance is estimated to be much smaller and less can be used for current expenses. In addition, due to tighter budget controls, not as much money can be anticipated as turn-backs.
No Operational Override, But Debt Approval May Be Asked
No Proposition 2.5 override vote is expected for FY14. However, voters will probably be asked to approve debt of $12.4 million for the new DPW building. Not all of this money would be borrowed during FY14. As money is needed for construction, incremental borrowing occurs. A back-of-the envelope estimate made during the meeting suggested that less than 10 cents would be added to the tax rate (i.e., $60 on a $600,000 house) for debt service for the DPW building in FY14. This calculation was not included in any of the draft budgets as
the vote to construct the new DPW building has not yet taken place.
No vote is expected on overriding state Proposition 2-1/2 limits. The property tax levy for FY14 will not exceed Wayland's levy limit. Briefly, the levy limit for a given year is calculated by taking the levy limit for the previous year (FY13), subtracting the debt service for that year, adding 2.5%, adding new growth and adding the exempt debt service for the next year (FY14). This sum is larger than the draft's anticipated revenue required from property taxes for Wayland for FY14.
Wayland's levy limit is well in excess of Proposition 2 1/2 because the town has passed several overrides and debt exemptions, which raised the limit permanently and for the borrowing duration, respectively.
New exempt debt service (for the DPW building for example) can be added to the limit for the year it is to be paid. Exempt debt service is always added to the levy limit.
Sewer Connection and Town Center
Discussion of the Waste Water Management District Commission's (WWMDC) budget raised the issue of the state Department of Environmental Protection's ultimate decision on the Town Center developer's application for a sewer connection permit. Without the DEP's permit, the Town may need a costly new leaching facility on land adjacent to the Town Building in order to make the Town Building's current facility available to supplement the WWMDC's current capacity. The FinCom asked for more information from the town administrator.
WWMDC chairman Fred Knight stopped short of disclosing that four days before, he and Town Administrator Fred Turkington had signed an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) issued by the DEP that commits the Town to build the wastewater disposal facility he was alluding to. Normally all costs incurred by the WWMDC are managed within their Enterprise Fund, but the ACO was issued to the Town, which implies it may bind the entire community, not just wastewater treatment plant customers.
To date, there has been no public discussion about who will incur the cost of this new commitment, or who has been paying all along as consultants and attorneys have been working on this. See WVN newsletter #480 to read related documents:
FinCom Comment on Articles
The FinCom briefly discussed a proposal from the selectmen that the Finance Committee not be required to comment on every warrant article. Over the years some citizens have questioned the role of the FinCom in making recommendations about matters in which it can claim no special expertise. This would not take effect until after this year's Annual Meeting. All FinCom members present agreed that this is probably a good idea since the discussions on the budget have been taking increasing effort each year, leaving little energy for extensive coverage of non-financial warrant articles. FinCom would continue to provide commentary and recommendations on articles with financial impact.
-- WVN staff
FINNERTY'S: NO CURB CUT ON MAIN STREET
The Planning Board has denied a curb cut on Main Street requested by developers of 150 Main Street, at the site of the defunct Finnerty's restaurant. The curb cut was controversial because of: the number of pedestrians, many children, using that route to and from school; the location opposite the fire station; and the proximity to the stoplight at 27 and East and West Plain streets.
The hearing is continued to Tuesday, Jan 22, when the board will consider other site plan issues such as lighting, signage, location of dumpsters, and a modification of the site plan without the Main Street curb cut. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_MeetingsCal/S01A2E3CC-01A30BF2.0/Agendaplanningbd01222013.pdf
The special permit issues such as reduced number of parking spaces and location of parking on residentially zoned property are expected to be considered Tuesday, Feb. 5
Traffic consultant Kevin Dandrade, principal at TEC, Inc. said two driveways were sufficient for the site, either the two on West Plain or one on West Plain and one on Main Street.
The developer will be required to upgrade the stoplights at that intersection as well as to install an ondemand yellow blinker near the playing field for pedestrians. However, the Planning Board may have complicated issues by suggesting that the DPW should handle any construction needed in the roadways.
Residents again presented to the Planning Board a petition with more than 500 signatures asking that there be no curb cut on Main Street.
At the Jan. 8 meeting, the Planning Board heard the revised plans for landscaping and buildings, which were widely acknowledged to be much improved after working with the town's new Design Review Board. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Planning/150%20Main%20Street
The CVS siding will be brown, in a marked departure from corporate design, and more consistent with the existing Finnerty's structure. The mixed-use building pays homage to the former Wayland Grange Hall from about a century ago. Plans call for a restaurant, office space, and perhaps ice cream and bakery stores.
Although smaller than the CVS, the second building appears larger, some observed. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Planning/150Mainsiteplan.pdf
-- Molly Upton
NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR CITIZENSHIP AWARD
Nominations are open for the annual Lydia Maria Child award for public service to Wayland.
The award is named for a nationally known abolitionist, author and women's rights activist who lived in Wayland and was buried in North Cemetery after her death at age 78 in 1880. Among other things she wrote the lyrics for "Over the River and Through the Woods."
The Wayland Public Ceremonies Committee will accept nominations through March 31. The Committee's criteria include:
Extraordinary (and perhaps not widely recognized) effort, significant results, improving Wayland and its government, encouraging diversity of thought and educating on controversial or emerging issues.
Please submit nominating letters to Committee Chairman Richard Turner, rickypt@..., 7 Nob Hill Road, Wayland, marked LMC Award Nominee.
Tuesday, Jan. 22: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/index There are at least seven board meetings posted for this evening in town building, with varying start times.
Wednesday, Jan. 23 Finance Committee meeting and warrant article hearing, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 24: Conservation Commission, 7:30 p.m.
Finance Committee budget season schedule: