The Town of Blandford is proposing an operating budget of $4.6 million in FY 2021, not including the Water Enterprise. The Water Enterprise operating budget is proposed at $535 thousand.
• FY21 Budget Summary Report
• FY21 Anticipated Revenue Summary
• FY21 Proposed Budget
• FY21 Expense Pie Graph
• FY21 Water Budget – Revenue and Expenditure
• FY21 Annual Town Meeting Warrant – June 22, 2020
The following is a snapshot overview of the proposed budget followed by a budget narrative. Much more details of the budget can be found in the links above.
Proposed Operating Budget
|Expenditures||% of Budget||$ Amount|
|Health & Human Services||2%||97,946.07|
|Culture & Recreation||2%||92,073.08|
|State & Other Assessments||0%||203.95|
|Transfers to Other Funds||4%||200,000.00|
|Estimated Revenues||% of Budget||$ Amount|
|Payment in Lieu of Taxes||6%||260,000|
|State Aid (net)||5%||212,847|
|Motor Vehicle Excise Tax||4%||165,000|
|Other Local Receipts||9%||385,700|
Proposed Free Cash Transfer Requests
(The Massachusetts Department of Revenue certified $763,146.00 of free cash, of which $100,000 was transferred to stabilization and $98,560 was used for tree debris cleanup at previous special town meeting, leaving balance of $564,586.00.)
|Tanker/Pumper – Fire Department||200,000|
|SCBAs – Fire Department||20,000|
|Landscape Project at Memorial Park||15,000|
|Modifications to Kennel||3,000|
|Public Building Upgrades, Water Line Upgrades, Other, as necessary||62,000|
|Class 500 Series Plow Truck – Highway Department||85,000|
Proposed Overlay Transfers
(The Board of Assessor’s maintains an Overlay account which has a total balance $209,131.00. On average, roughly $15,000.00 annually is spent for abatements and it’s recommended we maintain a balance of the average amount spent times three in the Overlay account which totals $45,000.00. We propose transferring $164,131 in total which will leave a leftover balance in Overlay of $45,000.)
|Retire Irene Storm Damage Debt||97,752|
TOTAL ESTIMATED BEFORE TRANSFERS = $4,038,023
TOTAL ESTIMATED REVENUE with TRANSFERS = $4,897,317.05
TOTAL OPERATING = $4,649,964.15
Projected Surplus = $247,352.90
This budget is based on current revenue and expense projections and a balanced understanding of Blandford’s municipal service needs. Following a year of strong growth at the state level, the state economy has slowed, with state revenue collections falling overwhelmingly short of benchmark targets in recent months because of COVID-19. This, combined with the state’s own economic challenges, continues to limit net local aid growth. Therefore, the proposed budget includes receiving approximately the same amount in local aid for FY21 as we received in FY20. We discussed if whether or not we may see a possible decrease in state aid because of COVID-19. After reviewing this, we concluded this is highly unlikely but not impossible. Moreover, we anticipate seeing a shortfall in revenue from meals tax which is not a whole lot but it’s a factor equally important to watch out for. Therefore, the budget presented for FY21 is a conservative budget that takes into consideration any chance for revenue shortfalls from state aid and/or meals tax and does not propose a Proposition 2.5 Override. The proposed budget also leaves on table a surplus of $247,352.90 compared against to what we expect to receive for revenue which provides additional flexibility for the town.
Locally, the town is looking forward to see moderate growth in some local revenues—but the tax base, the largest source of revenue for the town, is always limited by Proposition 2½ regardless of economic factors. The Finance Committee relied on a combination of conservative budget controls, creative budgeting solutions, and moderate favorable growth in local revenues to develop a balanced budget with a surplus for FY21. Therefore, the budget presented here results in no service reductions in FY21. The following are key methods in which has allowed for the balanced budget:
- In previous years, we have raised and appropriated roughly $90,000 to pay toward the debt on the Irene Storm Damage. FY21 will be our final payment and instead of raising and appropriating through taxation, the Finance Committee, in Article 10, is recommending to pay off the debt from available overlay funds. This provides relief in our budget of $97,572. The Board of Assessor’s has already approved this request of which needs to now be approved at town meeting.
- We revisited health insurance and budgeted much more conservatively. This freed up additional funds previously budgeted for in past.
- The Assessor’s reported a new growth estimate of roughly $141,000. Although this may be the case, we budgeted for $40,000 of that estimate.
Other important factors that allowed for a balanced budget also includes:
- We anticipate seeing a savings in our energy bills of roughly $14,000 due to an investment of $164,803 of energy conservation projects in our public buildings paid for through the states Green Communities grant program.
- We anticipate seeing more savings in our Gas and Diesel costs due to a recent procurement that locked in much lower prices than what we were paying in FY20.
The Finance Committee has also included in the budget strategic investments for the Town in stabilization accounts, reserve account, and capital projects – important budgeting tools to provide greater flexibility for the town to invest in its capital infrastructure and respond to unforeseen circumstances and emergencies. Investments in these account were from what was available in overlay and free cash. This includes:
- Capital Projects: The Finance Committee, in Article 7, is recommending an appropriation from free cash a sum of $300,000 to Capital Projects to meet the town’s ongoing capital needs. This includes $200,000 for a pumper/tanker truck for the Fire Department, $20,000 for SCBA’s for the Fire Department, $15,000 for beautification project at Memorial Park, $3,000 to modify the Kennel, and the remaining $62,000 to coordinate public building upgrades, water line upgrades, and other capital needs as necessary. Additionally, in Article 6, the Finance Committee is recommending from Free Cash $85,000 for the Highway Department to purchase a Class 500 Series Plow Truck to replace the old one recently auctioned off. The Highway Department successfully auctioned off a number of non-serviceable equipment which has resulted in a cash value return to the town of $52,000 in the general fund which should reflect in free cash for next year.
- Stabilization: The Finance Committee, in Articles 8 and 11, is recommending investments into building stabilization. Additionally, Article 13 looks forward to open a new stabilization account for the library building and it’s recommending to transfer from building stabilization $100,000 to the library building stabilization which reflects $25,000 a year for the last four years to-date. The Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen plan to invest $25,000 a year into this account moving forward. At our last Special Town Meeting, an investment of $100,000 was made into our emergency stabilization.
- Reserve: The Finance Committee, in Article 12, is recommending to $41,379 from what’s remaining in the overlay account. This request has already been approved by the Board of Assessors of which needs to now be approved by town meeting.
In near future, the Finance Committee looks forward to collaborate with the Board of Selectmen to establish clear policies and guidelines for how free cash, reserves, stabilization, and capital projects are governed.
Although much progress has been made in maximizing on the available resources to the town and establishing a budget that is flexible, responsible, and transparent, there is still more work to do. As a town we must continue to exercise fiscal restraint so that we can preserve the gains we have made to date, especially as we prepare to navigate any potential shortfall and/or continue to improve our capital infrastructure.
Our Process and Concluded Budget
At the start of the budget process which began in October, 2019, the Finance Committee forwarded specific instructions to each department to look into areas in which budgets can be decreased or level funded; and if costs were expected to increase from level fund amount, that departments explain in detail reasons why. The Finance Committee met with all town departments and committees to consider how to best allocate our limited resources. The Finance Committee worked with departments to understand service needs and updated their targeted budget amount based on latest information from new growth values, state aid, and the town’s share of the school budget for FY21 – so that the Finance Committee is working with the most accurate fiscal picture. After evaluating all contractual obligations and requests and how it compared to our target mark of anticipated revenue, the Finance Committee recommended a 2.25% compensation increase for all town employees. There was extensive discussion within the Finance Committee on how to differentiate employees from positions that are stipend. Additional discussions took place regarding how to compensate elected and appointed boards and committee members – currently Board of Selectmen, Board of Assessor’s, and Board of Health all get stipends. Meanwhile other boards and committee don’t get anything. There isn’t any set rules, bylaw, policy, or guidelines on how to manage stipends including any increases for those that receive stipends. Therefore a $50 increase for stipend positions is recommended by the Finance Committee and it was strongly recommended to the Board of Selectmen that the town consider putting together an advisory committee to research this and identify options that is fair and equitable for everyone.
As for the schools, the school district presented two budgets, an alternative and the statutory. Currently reflected in the proposed budget is the alternative which is a 1.96% increase from FY20, totaling $1,591,448. In order for the alternative budget to take effect, each of the 6 towns that sustain the regional district will have to pass in support of the alternative budget. If one or more towns deny the alternative budget, we are to expect to fund the statutory budget which is a 5.51% increase from FY20, totaling $1,646,875. The statutory budget is $55,427 more than the alternative. We have flexibility in our budget to sustain either one.
The omnibus budget in Article 14 reflects implementation of the funding guidelines and alternative assessment for the school district along with support for a limited number of service expansions (among them include an additional laborer for the Highway Department, an additional Clerk for the Treasurer/Collector Department, and additional hours for the Library Director).
The Finance Committee is indebted to the many dedicated and talented town employees whose efforts make this process and report possible. We would like to commend the committees and departments for their spirit of cooperation in formulating this budget. Their continued efforts on behalf of the town are greatly appreciated. We would also like to express our thanks to Town Administrator Joshua A. Garcia in providing the necessary support and guidance that helped us conclude the recommended FY21 budget per the following objectives/timeline.