Budget plan scaled back

Select Board, Budget Committee agree on some cuts

PETERBOROUGH — Budget Committee and Select Board members agreed on a budget proposal for next year that will require about $5.9 million to be raised through taxation. That’s a 4.9 percent increase over the current year, when $5,651,635 was needed. The two boards made a number of cuts during a joint session Wednesday in order to get the increase under 5 percent.

The proposed total gross budget, including capital improvements, as it stands now, is $13.3 million, an increase of 10 percent over last year’s $12 million; revenues are expected to rise $1 million.

“We’re trying to bring the operating budget down, as close to flat as possible,” Town Administrator Pam Brenner said as she reviewed a series of proposed cuts and additional revenue sources that saved $47,301. Those included eliminating $10,000 for transfer of town tax records to electronic format and preservation of originals in a town vault, reducing the health insurance budget by $9,396 because penalties related to the Affordable Care Act will not be imposed until the following year, and reducing the welfare budget by $5,000, based on this year’s actual expenditures.

“I don’t think it will hurt,” Human Services Director Nicole MacStay said about the welfare reduction. “I’m below budget right now.” She noted that welfare payments are required by law, so if demand increases, the money would have to come from other areas of the budget.

Brenner also recommended increasing revenue projections related to motor vehicle permits by $10,000, based on this year’s actual numbers.

The boards debated whether to include about $6,000 in additional library revenue, which could come to the town if Sharon voters support a warrant article to continue using Peterborough’s library. Brenner said she had not included that money in the budget, and Budget Committee Chair Roland Patten said the decision is up to the voters of Sharon, so Peterborough should wait and see how the vote goes.

The two boards unanimously agreed to the $47,301 proposed reduction.

The boards also made a number of cuts on the capital expenditures plan for next year. Based on suggestions from Brenner, they reduced the Highway Department vehicles and equipment line by $150,000, which removed money to replace a 2004 Freightliner dump truck. They also cut $140,000 from the fleet management capital reserve line, eliminated $35,000 for separating some downtown lines that carry both sewage and stormwater runoff to the wastewater plant, and pared $15,000 from the library budget for painting of the Keyes Sage house.

During the discussion of the capital expenditures cuts, Budget Committee member Leslie Lewis said the Capital Improvement Plan had already been scaled back during preliminary budget planning. She said the town needs to stick with a consistent plan from year to year, setting aside money to avoid significant expenditures when the time comes for major purchases.

Brenner also suggested cutting back the amount to go into the Fire Department equipment capital reserve fund from $100,000 to $50,000. When the time came to finalize the proposal, Lewis moved to keep the full $100,000 and the majority of the two boards agreed.

When they were finished, the amount that will need to be raised by taxes came in 4.9 percent higher than last year.

“Voters have to realize it can’t be 2.1 or 2.3 percent any more,” said Budget Committee member Paul Sullivan, who had seconded Lewis’s motion regarding the Fire Department equipment fund. “The kicking the can down the road has to stop.”

The budget proposal will be discussed and reviewed at a public budget hearing on March 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town House.

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