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WVN #74: April Override More Than $2 Million

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  • waylandvoters2
    Wayland Voters Network March 3, 2005 Dear Wayland Voter, This report on the Finance Committee s Feb. 28 public hearing on the FY06 budget was prepared by WVN
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2005
      Wayland Voters Network
      March 3, 2005

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      This report on the Finance Committee's Feb. 28 public hearing on the
      FY06 budget was prepared by WVN Chair Margo Melnicove.


      Finance Committee Chair Bob Lentz began with a budget overview.

      The expected tax override on the April 26 town election ballot has
      increased to $2.2 million and could go higher. Lentz said the exact
      amount won't be known for "a bit of time."

      Town departments were directed to budget increases only where
      required to cover union contracts, healthcare and retirement costs,
      and utility costs. Lentz said these increases, plus a $74,000
      increase in Special Education, total approximately $2.8 million. Fee-
      supported programs were directed to be self-sufficient.

      Proposed operating expenditures $52.1 million
      Expected revenue 48.8 million
      Shortfall 3.3 million

      The Finance Committee proposes covering the shortfall by:
      Reductions $ 220,000
      New Revenue 75,000 (additional fees landfill, park & rec)
      Water Dept. Reserves 500,000
      Free cash 300,000 (leaving $1.3 million in free cash)
      Override 2,200,000

      Lentz blamed the shortfall on a decline in state aid (from $5 million
      in 2002-'03 to $4 million expected in FY 06), and significant
      increases in salary and healthcare costs. He pointed out that 30 new
      participants joined the healthcare plan in the last 12 months, and
      one-third of the 750 participants are retirees. Healthcare was
      described as "an area we need to get under control."

      Lentz said the Finance Committee believes the town's expense
      structure is appropriate and that we do not have too many employees.
      He also said per pupil costs are in keeping with surrounding towns.

      The FinCom will prepare a second budget to present to Annual Town
      Meeting in the event that the override fails. Lentz said this budget
      will be roughly $2 million less than the budget currently under

      When it came time to review the proposed budget, it was apparent that
      no written materials had been made available for members of the
      public. At the request of this writer, after some discussion, copies
      of a ten-page budget summary were made and distributed so the public
      could follow the discussion.

      The total proposed FY06 operating budget of $48,998,081 is a 5.3%
      increase over the current operating budget of $46,515,770.

      As Lentz ticked off each department listed in the budget summary, the
      following requests and questions were raised by members of the
      public, town employees, and elected and appointed officials:

      Restore $7,000 for hiring a college student this summer to maintain
      plantings around town.

      Remove $25,000 requested by Selectmen to boost Town Administrator's
      salary and go back to Town Meeting with a new article rescinding the
      Town Administrator position because the town can't afford the
      $125,000 salary.

      The Board of Selectmen has called for a hiring freeze. Does that
      apply to the Town Administrator? Answer: ambiguous. Search
      continues, but BOS doesn't expect to hire someone for a few months.

      Restore $4,600 for wages for the three members of the Board of
      Assessors (approx. $1,500 each).

      Why have contractual services for Town Counsel increased by 21% from
      $118,600 in current FY to $143,600 in FY06? Answer: hourly rate
      increase, and additional money for reserves.

      Surface Water Quality Commission budget of $4,900 cut by FinCom by
      $4,400, leaving $500. Request to restore the $4,400.

      Could the landfill make a lot of money by selling recyclable goods?
      Answer: divided. Member of the public says yes, landfill employee
      says no.

      If the landfill were operated by a private business, would it cost
      less to operate (resulting in lower user fees)? Answer: no,
      according to FinCom member Chris Riley and BOS member Brian O'Herlihy
      who have researched the question the past year-and-a-half.

      The town pool lost $50,000-$100,000 last year (discrepancy in final
      figure not yet resolved) and continues to lose money. User fees can
      be increased only so much until users will join a different, cheaper
      pool. What to do? Answer: no one knows.

      Health insurance was discussed, in light of an increase of at least
      14% from $3,846,056 in current FY to $4,400,000 in FY06. Chris Riley
      said the town pays 68% of the cost of premiums, which is more than
      required by law, but not as much as some other towns cover. He also
      said significant savings could be realized if Town Meeting would
      approve changes to coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees. Will the
      FinCom propose an article to that effect for April's Town Meeting
      (the article must be submitted by next Tuesday)? Answer: not likely,
      because an actuarial analysis would have to be completed first.

      Is it legal for the town to use $500,000 from users' fees collected
      by the Water Dept. to cover operating budget expenditures? Answer:
      Town Counsel has advised the FinCom that such use of Water Dept.
      reserve funds would be legal. Does the FinCom have that legal
      opinion in writing? Answer: no.

      Does the School Dept.'s 5.7% increase from $25,909,202 in current FY
      to $27,379,743 in FY06 comply with the FinCom's guideline? Answer:
      close enough. The guideline is not a specific percentage; rather, it
      allows increases only for mandated salary and utility costs.

      The School Dept. is proposing to add two new teachers to the budget
      in FY06 over and above the four who will be needed as a result of
      population shifts and increases: an elementary reading teacher and a
      teacher for the new High School Academic Center. One has already
      been hired from "excess" funds in the FY05 budget. Why is the FinCom
      allowing this increase? Answer: the School Dept. will be raising
      fees by enough to cover these new positions.

      Regarding the capital budget, a member of the public who joined the
      hearing after attending the School Committee meeting said the SC
      decided to request that $400,000 be borrowed to purchase modular
      classrooms, not $350,000 as indicated in the FinCom's budget
      summary. This would bring the total capital budget to $1,722,000.

      Thus ended the Finance Committee's budget hearing. The School
      Committee plans to hold a public hearing on the school budget on
      April 11, after the budget booklets are mailed out.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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