By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last year, Town Manager Michael Borg said the town has seen a variety of financial change, from a vast increase in hotel usage, a drop in vehicle sales, and a great deal of new development.
During the April 11 Town Council meeting, Borg outlined the town’s $102 million budget. The budget is comprised of $67 million from the town’s tax levy and another $25 million in state aid, with the rest coming from grants and pilot programs.
The Finance Subcommittee will hold meetings with department heads over the next several weeks, and the budget will be voted on by the council in June. Borg described this as a level-service budget.
“We wanted to be realistic, not curve the budget one way or another,” he said. “We used the council’s goals and guidelines. We wanted to buffer the budget so we could endure any issues, such as project delays.”
All of the $2.5 million that North Attleborough was allocated through the CARES Act has been spent. A couple of purchases were disallowed under the regulations, and were instead covered under ARPA. Borg said ARPA has allowed the town to pay for projects it couldn’t before, including new fields on High Street. He cited other state and federal funding, such as the $1.5 million the town received for dredging the Ten-Mile River.
“We’re going back for more money for the Ten-Mile River,” said Borg.
Borg said the town is in solid financial shape, and he pointed out the AA+ bond rating by Standard and Poor’s, which will allow for more borrowing. The town’s health insurance costs haven’t increased, resulting in an expansion of coverage. Borg thanked the different department heads for making cuts to their individual budgets where needed.
“Every department gave what they could,” he said.
In looking at the previous fiscal year, Borg said hotel receipts had tripled while vehicle sales had dropped, due mainly to a shortage of computer chips. This shortage had led to purchases of vehicles—such as a new fire engine the town purchased—to be delayed. Several new businesses and developments are in the works, including Angle Tree Brewing, Pawtucket Credit Union, Four Corners Trading Cards, and the 192-unit apartments at 21 East St.
The town has $9 million in projects over the next year. Among these are the replacement of trucks and plow equipment, field improvements—particularly at Mason Field playground—and $1 million for the feasibility study at the high school. Over the next five years, Borg said 86 projects valued at $50 million are planned.
“Our primary mechanism is to conserve borrowing capacity” said Borg. “We prefer to pay cash for a project.”
Borg said the Emerald Square Mall would likely be sold over the next year and and the creation of more mixed-used zoning will aid in its redevelopment.
“We think that affordable housing is going to be a key component,” said Borg. “We need to look at where we can build affordable housing and where it makes sense, make sure we grow in a smart way.”