Fiscal Year 2023 has reached its halfway point, and Town Manager Michael Borg believes there are achievements to celebrate while remaining cautious about the future.
In his annual budget address to the Town Council and School Committee at the North Attleborough Middle School on Jan. 9, Borg outlined the current forecast for the remaining six months of the fiscal year along with an outlook for the next, along with a five-year forecast.
In his address, Borg told members that the first half of the year saw major advances in development—bringing in new businesses and revenue growth for the town.
Notable projects include the Angle Tree Brewery, the Coast1 Bank on Chestnut Street, Seasons Corner Market on E. Washington Street and Sun Belt Rentals on Alice Agnew Drive.
“There are still several developers who are interested in building in North Attleborough,” Borg said. “One of our issues we are seeing in North Attleborough is that we are out of space. So, if you look down Route 1, you look at all the space that can be developed.”
The town manager touted future developments that would help bring in more revenue, such as the 40R mixed-used apartment project on Kelley Boulevard, or a potential 300-unit apartment that would be built on Emerald Square after its purchase from Cohen Properties. The 40R project would increase North Attleborough’s affordable housing percentage from 3.5 to 7% and add $1.3 million in annual tax revenue. Borg also mentioned that the housing market appears to be cooling down due to increased interest rates from the Federal Reserve amidst rising inflation.
“We want that opportunity to bring in housing and that retail,” Borg said. “We do see that slowdown, but there’s not a lot of housing units on the market right now. This is a long-term view.
Indeed, Borg’s outlook for Fiscal Year 2024 and beyond projected new developments as the number one generator of new growth , but it was not the only accomplishment during the beginning of Fiscal Year 2023.
Funding for the dredging of the 10-Mile River was acquired after Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA04) announced he had secured $1.5 million in earmarks last March . State Rep. Adam Scanlon, (D-North Attleborough) also helped secure $9 million for road and traffic safety improvements for routes 152 and 106—a concern among those who live near the area.
Regarding the execution of the budget, $51,284,184 of the appropriated $107,291,763 was used–mainly for the elections department and the salary reserve.
While a steady budget, new developments, and advances in infrastructure projects were all lauded at the meeting, Borg said there were warning signs of a possible economic downturn that would affect the budget of FY24.
Inflation is still at a rate of 7.1%, making expenses for capital projects, health insurance, and maintenance repairs cost more. Car sales are decreasing too, indicating the market is beginning to cool because of rising interest rates.
To mitigate these risks, Borg recommended creating a fiscally conservative budget estimate based on market and economic trends. He also recommended the town be conservative in its borrowing from bond letters.
Council President Justin Paré and Vice President John Simmons said they are committed to being careful when spending on capital projects and need to see what the future holds when implementing the FY24 budget.
“I think inflation is always a factor that’s included, but it’s very much included right now,” Paré said. “That’s going to impact the amount of debt borrowing that we do and the projects that we do.”