WVN #74: April Override More Than $2 Million
- 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.
FINCOM 2/28/05: APRIL OVERRIDE MORE THAN $2 MILLION
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)
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
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
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.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer