Proposed FY10 budget approved by Select Board
By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW -- There are three basic steps to approving a town s budget: creating the budget, gaining elected official approval and gaining town approval.
As of last Wednesday, Longmeadow has achieved the first two of these three steps.
The Select Board approved the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget of $51,741,520 on March 18 before a room full of concerned citizens -- that's $267,062 less than the FY10 budget requests and $509,029 more than FY09 appropriations as modified, an increase of only .00984 percent.
At the budget hearing last Monday evening, Mark Barowsky, chair of the Finance Committee, informed the Select Board that the committee would not be recommending the budget in its current form at the Annual Town Meeting in April.
"We feel there's a certain amount of inequities the schools are sustaining," Barowsky said. "We don't think the town is owning up [and sharing the burden of budget cuts]."
The budget was approved by the Select Board assuming there would be $125,000 in turnbacks from the School Department, whose budget is currently $117,000 over the target set by Town Manager Robin Crosbie.
In addition to the shortfall of $117,000, the schools are also facing a deficit of $138,000 for special education funding -- which School Committee chair Christine Swanson said is a positive thing, as in the past that total has averaged $300,000.
It had been suggested that the $117,000 the schools needed be taken from the capital planning budget, but the Finance Committee voted against that.
"It's inappropriate for us to draw a line in the sand," Barowsky said. "If the Select Board would present us with a more equitable budget, we would be more willing to back it."
He suggested the school's shortfall come from another town source. Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk noted that there is still $319,000 left over from the recent Proposition 2 1/2 override.
"I think if we can keep the operation stabilization fund whole for FY11, we'll be in a better position," Swanson said. "We're trying to find other areas to cut."
The Select Board is moving forward on plans to shift the capital project of repainting Center School, which is part of a 10-year long renovation project at the school, to something that could be funded by Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. The repainting of the school, which is in a historic district, is estimated to cost $150,000.
By moving that project off the first tier of the capital planning budget, three or four other, smaller projects from the second tier could be funded.
"It's a roll of the dice with CPA funding," Select Board member Robert Barkett said.
"I understand [his] concern, but sometimes you gotta take a chance," Select Board member Brian Ashe added.
Former Select Board member Jerry Nolet noted that running the town is like "running a $50 million-plus business" and that the only thing the town can know for sure is that its resources will always be variable.
"There are many revenue sources," Nolet told the board. "You need to disperse that pot of gold to the best of your abilities."
"We're still more than a month from the town meeting," Select Board chair Paul Santaniello stated. We still need to roll up our sleeves [and work on the budget]."
Resident Curt Freeman suggested the town utilize the citizenry more to get work done; Joe Occhiuti wants the town to identify what has caused this budgeting problem besides Gov. Deval Patrick's budget cuts.
"What do we have to do to make our town survive?" Occhiuti asked. "The best community in Western Massachusetts is not working."
Most of the budget discussion focused on the School Department's $117,000 shortfall, "one-fifth of one percent of the budget," according to Santaniello.
"With [that much] out of whack...It's not a bad budgeting year," he said.
In addition to approving the proposed FY10 budget to move forward to the Annual Town Meeting, the Select Board also approved the water and sewer rates for the next fiscal year: flat rates of $2.11 per unit of water, $2.50 for sewer.
The board narrowly approved of Crosbie s three-year contract extension by a vote of 3-2. Both residents and Select Board members believed that the Town Manager should have had a shorter termed contract.
Residents will be able to vote on these items at the Annual Town Meeting, scheduled for April 28.
To view the entire FY10 budget, log on to www.longmeadow.org