Town Manager Matt Sturgis delivered a draft Municipal and Community Services Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 to the Town Council on Friday, March 5, 2021. To date, the Finance Committee has held two meetings on March 15 and March 18 reviewing the budget with department heads. The Finance Committee is made up of all seven Town Councilors and is chaired by councilor, Jeremy Gabrielson.
The proposed budget shows a total combined municipal and community services budget for FY22 to be $16,871,393. This amount is offset with revenues from all sources in the amount of $8,853,472. The amount to be collected from property taxes is proposed to be $7,016,901 — which is 5.48% more than last year. As proposed, the budget will provide a net to taxes increase of 3.76%.
Last year, in response to the challenges associated with the onset of the pandemic, the municipal budget underwent a significant revision and ultimately decreased on the municipal rate by 3.46% on the tax rate. This resulted in a two-year average of .15 percent increase.
During the March 15 meeting, Sturgis highlighted several expenses beginning with personnel. Personnel expenses make up 54.4% of the municipal budget and include a 2% average wage increase. Capital item purchases and public works infrastructure projects were also highlighted. In particular, significant investments are proposed with the planned replacement of the Willow Brook Culvert, the Kettle Cove / Crescent Beach access replacement, and engineering and planning costs associated with major improvements to Shore Road. The capital plan includes the replacement of the Fire Department’s Engine 2 and Public Works Department’s loader/backhoe. Both of these purchases will be financed with a five-year, lease purchase option.
Another highlighted expense is the planning, engineering, and construction of a new parking area at the Spurwink School building. Compliance codes require a parking lot to be in place in order for the building to be utilized. Sturgis added, that “this is an important step forward as we consider improvements for the school and the eventual home for the Historic Society.”
Offsetting the increases in capital expenses is the use of $1 million from the unassigned fund balance. This money will be use for capital improvement projects and annual operating expenses. Sturgis added that while this use of funds will lower the current amount in the unassigned funds balance, the overall level of the unassigned funds will remain inline with current policy. The Town is also pursuing all available grants to help offset costs. Currently, grant funding is in place for the Willow Brook culvert; in process for the Shore Road project; and is anticipated for the Kettle Cove / Crescent Beach project.
Revenues from sources other then property taxes are projected to have a net increase and include: an increase in vehicle registration fees as more residents are buying newer motor vehicles; a $2.5 million projection in excise taxes, which is $450,000 more than the current-year budget as that amount was revised downward due to the pandemic; increased revenue for pay and display parking fees at Fort Williams estimated in the amount of $380,000; and a forecasted increase in Revenue Sharing from the state budget. The town is also expecting to receive funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The amount should be announced this Spring.
Other budget items of note include funding for Greenbelt trails. Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said that the Conservation Committee had requested funding to replace multiple boardwalks and trails that have seen an increased use over the years and in particular, over the past year. The largest repair will be a 1300 foot boardwalk within the Gullcrest trail. Other trails included are Town Center, Cross Hill, Stonegate, and Winnick Woods.
Utilizing grant funding, two electric vehicle charging stations will be installed at the Community Services building and in Fort Williams Park. Each location will have a four-head charging station. Also at Fort Williams, the proposed budget includes funds for repairing and installing fencing; invasive plan management control; and increased and improved park signage. In addition, in response to feedback from the User Group meetings for the Fort Williams Park Master Plan Update, the budget also includes updating the lower tennis courts.
Director of Public Works Jay Reynolds as requested additional overtime funds to offer extra support during exceptionally busy periods at the Recycling Center. In particular, extra help is needed near major holidays and the Household Hazardous Waste. Additionally, Reynolds and the Recycling Committee are asking for extra funds to be used for advertising how residents can keep contamination levels low in the recycling stream.
Future Budget-Related Meetings:
Meeting agendas, materials, and videoconference links are available on the Town Meetings and Agendas Calendar.