By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
Almost two years after the COVID pandemic began, North Attleborough’s finance are still having to make room for the virus.
At a joint meeting of the Town Council and School Committee on Jan. 10, Town Manager Michael Borg outlined the plans for the operational budget. The town is currently in the middle of the budget season and work has begun for next fiscal year. In March 2020, Borg said he met with the council to make a multi-year plan for the pandemic, with 2023 seen as the recovery period. Between funding from the CARES Act, FEMA, and the American Repair Plan Act, he said the town has had a buffer to handle impacts from COVID.
“What budget impacts are in 2022, we know that COVID will always be a part of the discussion,” said Borg at the meeting.
Other impacts have been to personnel. Earlier this year, the town faced a significant shortage of plow drivers, though the DPW has reported that recent hires have helped. Borg said that it has taken six months to get a new Town Planner on board, and other departments have seen few applicants.
“Those are services and capabilities we are not providing,” he said.
Over the next five years, the tax levy is expected to increase by $11 million and it’s hoped that State Aid will follow suit. Future budget drivers include a massive expansion of Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School, which would be paid for in part through the Massachusetts School Building Authority and by those towns that send students. The school is currently in the second phase, forming a design team.
In addition, the town is examining a replacement or renovation of the high school, a new fire station, and the multi-million dollar upgrades to alleviate the presence of PFAS in the town drinking water.
Projects and development
Changes to the town’s businesses and municipal infrastructure were included in Borg’s address. He said that the estimated tax levy will be approximately $66 million. He cited several projects that have been completed, such as the new bridge on Chestnut Street and the Community School’s new roof. Payment for the new police station has been completed, which will benefit the residents with a slight decrease to their taxes.
Borg said that energy and interest costs are expected to rise. In the early days of the pandemic, both were at an all-time low, and many took advantage to purchase vehicles or even homes. During the meeting it was mentioned that the average home valuation in North Attleborough is expected to rise to approximately $480,000.
“That’s going to impact the tax rate,” said Borg.
On business, 2021 saw a number of new businesses open their doors, including Triple Play Car Wash and 4 Sharp Corners. The 192-unit apartment complex at 21 East St. was granted a temporary certificate of occupancy. With all this new development and more expected, Borg cited a multi-use zoning bylaw that will be unveiled within the next year. This will have a strong bearing on the Emerald Square Mall, now in receivership.
“The town is going to run out of developable space in the near future, and will need to look at redeveloping existing space,” said Borg. “We’ll need to figure out how to take the town to the next level.”