Town Council approves Free Cash proposal

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North Attleborough Town Hall

abass@northstarreporter.com

A strategy of how North Attleborough should spend its remaining $8 million in Free Cash from Fiscal Year 2023 was approved by the Town Council.

The council voted 8-0 at its Dec. 12 meeting on a measure by the Finance Subcommittee outlining where and how much of the money should be allocated. Town Council Vice President John Simmons said the subcommittee approved the plan by a 6-0 vote before the full council meeting.

Simmons told the rest of the council and members of the public that this was only a proposal.  He said Town Manager Michael Borg would need to bring a final plan to the council to transfer Free Cash to any department.

“This is a strategic plan only, we are not passing anything yet,” he said. “This is a plan that allows us to tell the Town Manager we are on board with anything that he brings back to us.”

The draft proposal would allocate the money towards six different initiatives. Capital improvements such as infrastructure projects would receive $3.4 million, while $1.7 million would be for the Capital Stabilization Fund, which is for unexpected occurrences such as damage to a town building or school.

“These types of improvements would be for projects that are already started,” Simmons explained.  “These are for the big projects.”

The plan also calls for $750,000 to be allocated for safety and security items, including new contracts for police equipment or items related to school safety.

Additionally, a study by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to receive potential funding for a new high school would receive $1.2 million in funding under the proposal.

Town Manager Michael Borg said there was $1 million invested in the study so far, but said the cost rose during the last year.

“What I recommend, if we do this, is to first put the money in the Capital Stabilization Fund,” Borg told the Council. “We don’t have the exact number at the moment for the study.”

The remaining $1 million in Free Cash would be split evenly, with $500,000 going toward snow and ice removal and $500,000 allocated toward the economic development of new projects, such as the town’s housing plan and economic business incubator. Borg said the $500,000 might be for contractors or specialists involved in affordable housing that can help North Attleborough achieve its goals.

While the plan sets out guidelines for where the money is spent, Borg acknowledged there could be unforeseen circumstances that could change the final proposal released in January of next year.

“This isn’t set in stone,” he said. “Look at the snow, it could put a major dent in our budget. If we have two or three major snowstorms this year, it could go from $500,000 to maybe, and I hope not, $8 million.”