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Weitz proposes $40.5 million fiscal year 2014 budget

Date: 2/21/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM — Town Adminis-trator Robert Weitz has proposed a budget with modest increases for fiscal year 2014.

Weitz told Reminder Publications recently that the increase in the operating budget would be 2.8 percent with a total budget increase of 1.3 percent. All told, he said the budget proposal stands at $40.5 million.

"It's actually a 4.7 percent increase in appropriations, but a big chunk of that is going to be taken out of free cash to pay for the October [2011] snowstorm," Weitz said. "If you take away those costs, it's only a 2.1 percent increase in appropriations from last year."

According to his budget, the total appropriation toward the snowstorm costs would be $900,000.

Weitz said that while the state has made promises regarding things such as local aid, it was difficult to see at this point whether or not any funding increases would come through, making the budgeting process increasingly difficult.

"The trouble with all the numbers we've got put out there is we've heard they are going to increase local aid and we've heard that they are going to increase Chapter 90, but all of those proposals are based on raising taxes and I wouldn't put a lot of money on that happening," he said.

Weitz went on to explain that because the state budget figures are only hypothetical at this point, he made sure to include contingencies that would keep the town from going over the Proposition 2 ½ levy limit should the numbers change.

"At the moment, we're using the governor's numbers, but we're not sure what's going to be there, so we've got some room under the levy limit to compensate for what's cut," he said. "It's about $115,000."

Operationally, Weitz said, the town has not incurred many new expenses, resulting in the low percentage increase in the proposed budget.

"There's nothing much," he said. "There are a couple of part-time positions in there we're going to try to fund and we're going to do a trial with Sunday hours at the library and really that's it."

Weitz's proposed budget would also see an increase in Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) funding.

"We're going to try funding the OPEB fund at $100,000 this year," he said. "We've been $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 in the past, so we're looking to bump this up this year."

Weitz said that in formulating the budget, he had to estimate the town's contribution to the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District.

"They haven't done their budgeting yet, so I've budgeted it as a 2.5 percent line item and hopefully they come in under that," he said. "There is really not much else you can do at this point because I don't think they even go to their budget hearing for a few weeks yet and it's more than half our budget."

A budget roundtable has been scheduled for Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at Minnechaug Regional High School.