Town's $56.8 million budget proposal under review
Date: 3/15/2011March 14, 2011
By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW The Select Board has received Town Manager Robin Crosbie's recommended budget with plans to discuss it and possibly vote on it at its March 21 meeting.
Crosbie has recommended an increase of 3.37 percent to the town's annual budget for fiscal year 2012 (FY12). The $56.8 million must budget be approved by the Select Board, followed by the Finance Committee, which must recommend it at the Annual Town Meeting.
"We've been able to balance the budget this year, which hasn't happened in a while," Crosbie said.
There were several factors that contributed to the increased budget number, which will result in the reinstatement of town positions that were cut last year.
"Revenues are slowly recovering and we didn't get hit with a large reduction in local aid," Crosbie told Reminder Publications. "There was also a good level of restraint from the respective departments in making their budget requests."
The Department of Public Works (DPW) stands to gain an increase in its budget of more than $500,000, due to the department's request to restore its tree services, which were cut from $112,000 to $80,000 in fiscal year 2011 (FY11). The new budget recommendations also will allow the DPW to hire a mechanic after the position was cut in FY11, leaving the town with one person to service DPW equipment.
"With the collective millions of dollars in equipment at the DPW, we simply cannot rely on a single individual to maintain this equipment and provide the necessary turnaround," Crosbie stated in her budget recommendation. "Moreover, we now have no provision for coverage for vacation, illness, etc."
The School Department had requested a level service budget of $32.3 million, which was approved by the School Committee. The actual recommendation made by Crosbie was $34,607 less than the School Department's request.
Crosbie explained that the budget only allows for current salaries and the difference can be attributed to anticipated raises not yet in effect.
"Departments are not allowed to pad their budgets based on anticipated raises," Crosbie said. "The School Department expects to give some significant raises and I recommended we put that money aside for those, but it cannot be included in their current recommended budget."
Those potential adjustments include $2,607 to the assistant superintendent, $9,500 to the Center School principal and $7,500 to the Wolf Swamp Road principal.
A salary adjustment of $15,000 for the technology director is also anticipated, due to the consolidation of the town and school information technology departments.
The public safety budget would also receive an increase under Crosbie's proposal from $4.26 million to $4.37 million. The increase, she explained, will cover the current budget level for 20 police officers, plus overtime pay for shift overage while six officers take part in the six-month police academy training, plus coverage for additional training that may be needed in the spring.
While the Police Department requested the funds to hire an additional officer, Crosbie recommended the deferral of that request until all of the department's 20 current positions are filled with trained personnel, at which time the needs of the department would be clearer.
The proposed budget for general government remained without any major changes from FY11 and staffing levels will remain relatively unchanged. Crosbie did recommend the request of changing a clerical position to assistant town accountant and making two part-time town human resource positions permanent full-time positions.
The Planning and Development Department will also see a modest increase, should the budget be approved by the town. The creation of a planner/grant writer position is recommended by Crosbie, who said the town cannot take advantage of many grant opportunities without someone with the proper expertise on staff.
The town will once again fund the Council on Aging's program services coordinator position. The Friends of the Council on Aging put up the funding for the position last year when it was cut from the FY11 budget.
The complete budget recommendation is available online at www.longmeadow.org