By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
North Attleborough has over $4 million in Free Cash, which leads to the question of how best to use it.
Town Manager Michael Borg has a plan in mind, which includes money for the schools, capital projects, and one-time purchases. Borg reviewed the plan with the Town Council at the Jan. 25 virtual meeting, and the Finance Subcommittee will discuss this at its Feb. 4 meeting, before coming back to the council for a final vote. Much of these funds come from turnbacks made by various town departments in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Borg’s plan covers five different uses, and leaves approximately $600,000 unspent. Snow and ice removal tops the list, as the town frequently outspends what is allotted in the operating budget. Borg said the winter has been light, but February is typically when most of the snowfall is seen. He is also recommending that $1 million be given to the schools to cover a $1.8 million deficit. This has come about from fees not being charged for kindergarten and the buses, as well as lost funds from athletic games and facility rentals due to the pandemic.
“No one’s come to me and requested budget modification,” said Borg. “It would be prudent and responsible to discuss this now if there is a problem.”
Borg is also requesting that $2 million be set aside for one-time capital purchases. He said that interest rates are at an all-time low and it makes sense to do these now. An additional $500,000 would be set aside for vehicles and equipment. Some of this has already been spent on a new backhoe for the Department of Public Works.
The final part of the plan would set aside $500,000 for COVID-related costs that cannot be covered by the CARES Act and FEMA. The town qualifies for $2.5 million in reimbursement through CARES for things like PPE and building sanitizing. In the case of FEMA funds, Borg said this would only cover 75 percent of what is spent.
“We’re not sure yet what we’d need,” said Borg.
In addition to the Free Cash, the town has $7.2 million in the Stabilization Fund. Some of this will be used for capital projects, including the replacement roof at the Community School. Town Council President Keith Lapointe liked the plan, saying he was worried that there would be purchases made without a strategy.
“We get a little bit of alignment on directional framework,” he said.
Councilor Darius Gregory said that the vast amount of Free Cash puts the town in a unique position and some “outside the box” thinking could lead to new opportunities.
“We don’t need to do it the same way as before,” he said. “It’s in our best interests to drive new growth.”