By Max Bowenemail@example.com
With local receipts up and savings from reorganization, Town Manager Michael Borg said that the preliminary budget shows the town to be in solid fiscal shape.
The initial draft of the $102.1 million budget was presented to the Town Council at its Feb. 16 meeting. Another will be made in April and the council will vote on the budget in June. This fiscal year’s budget is $2.9 million higher than last year’s—approximately 3 percent. This includes the tax increase allowed under Proposition 2 ½ along with an anticipated $700,000 in new growth.
The new growth figure is down from $1.1 million in FY 22, and Borg said last fiscal year’s could have been an anomaly. He expects future growth to increase slightly each year to $800,000 by 2027.
In a previous meeting the board discussed the option of not raising taxes by 2.5 percent, as the proposition doesn’t require this—only limiting the increase to that percentage. Borg explained that should the council do this, he would need to make adjustments to cover the shortfall.
“It doesn’t change the levy amount,” he said.
The FY 23 budget is seeing a number of changes, some up and others down. Local Aid is up over $360,000, and local receipts are expected to be $184,000 higher. Last fiscal year saw a surge in vehicle purchases as interest rates hit an all-time low, but Borg said this has reversed as manufacturers are now having difficulty getting vehicle parts.
When asked about the revenue that could be seen from three proposed marijuana stores, Borg said it wasn’t possible to estimate, as none have opened as of yet. One store is set to open in March, said Borg, and based on its sales for the rest of the year it would be possible to determine future tax revenue. The town receives 3 percent of each business’ gross.
“Then we’ll have a full year of receipts and can see the data,” he said. “By then (2023) we will have two more places open.”
Not every aspect of the budget showed positive news. While the town is seeing some savings from reorganization, those line items are still more than $700,000 in the red. In addition, tuition that the town pays for North students at Bristol County Agricultural High School is up $9,000 following building improvements. Borg said this is an example of what the town could see once a massive renovation at Tri-County Regional Vocational High School is completed.
“Negotiations are still ongoing, but I expect to be wrapped up by March 31,” said Borg. “We’ve had good discussions with the department heads. If you’re asking for more, I’m going to ask why.”
On capital projects, Borg said the budget includes a proposal to borrow $4.3 million for road, bridge, and sidewalk repairs, a feasibility study for a new fire station, vehicle replacements, and equipment for the Mason Field Playground. Councilor John Simmons said that he’d like to see these be done more quickly, that sometimes a project is approved and later put on hold due to cost.
“I don’t know how long we’ve been talking about tracks and bleachers,” said Simmons, referring to the work at the high school athletic complex. “We authorize these as a priority for the council. We authorize the funds, we want to get this project done—let’s go.”