Every tax is a pay cut. Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation
|Framingham selectmen expect to make big spending cuts||February 10, 2010|
|Dan McDonald 508-626-4416||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM -- Looking ahead to next year, the town is financially bracing for the worst.
The fiscal 2011 town budget proposal - now estimated to be $209 million - will likely be reduced by 4 percent to 8 percent compared to this year's budgetary bottom line.
The town, as it stands now is wrangling with an $11 million gap in the school budget, Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley told selectmen last night.
Even with the maximum tax levy allowed under Proposition 2 1/2, the town will "still need to cut budgets," said Kelley.
Health insurance is one cost driver. Such costs could increase by as much as 10 percent, meaning health insurance would then eat up 17 percent of the total budget.
The town could support a School Department budget of $85 million, but to offer level services the school budget would likely have to be in the neighborhood of $96 million, said Kelley.
After her presentation, Kelley said, "It's too early in the game to talk layoffs."
Selectman Dennis Giombetti pushed for the town to foster new growth to increase tax revenues. He repeatedly said the town should concentrate more "on the revenue side of things."
He acknowledged, "I think we may have to bite the bullet this year," while advising that Framingham "should plan for the worst and hope for the best."
Selectman Charles Sisitsky also gave a sobering assessment.
"We can cut and cut and cut and still not be out of this hole," said Sisitsky.
Kelley's projections include some calculated risks. The projections assume that all active proposals that would bring significant new growth to Framingham, including all Tech Park commercial projects now on the table, will come to fruition or at least start to.
Other financial unknowns still loom large.
The projections do not account for any additional litigation funds.
The town is still embroiled in the federal lawsuit with the South Middlesex Opportunity Council. Town Meeting has already approved $750,000 for the town's defense of the case.
The town is not planning to contribute to an unfunded liability that covers the future cost of retiree health benefits. This should be funded at about $16 million annually, according to the presentation Kelley gave the board in the Memorial Building's Ablondi Room last night.
The projections do not include any wage adjustments, and the police, fire, and public works departments still have not settled collective bargaining for fiscal 2009 or fiscal 2010.
The situation swirling around Quinn Bill funding also is unresolved. The police union is pushing for the town to pick up the state's slack after Gov. Deval Patrick passed a budget that significantly gouged the state's support of the incentive-laden stipend program.
In Framingham, that has left a $450,000 hole in Quinn funding.
The police and fire departments make up half of the total municipal department budget. Public Works costs 19 percent of the municipal budget, while the remaining 25 departments make up 31 percent of the municipal budget.
Municipal departments have been required to submit budget requests that included 4 percent and 8 percent reductions.
The town administration is reviewing those proposals.
About three-quarters of the budget is funded through property tax levies, 14 percent of the budget comes from state aid, while 9 percent comes in the form of local receipts.
The fiscal 2011 revenue outlook includes an estimated 2.4 percent growth in total revenue, 2.5 percent growth in the tax levy, a 2 percent decrease in a total state aid decrease of about $1 million and no state funding of the Quinn Bill.
Last night there was some discussion that the board may not push for the maximum levy bump of 2.5 percent.
Kelley mentioned that dropping the levy to 2 percent would reduce revenue by $762,840 and would drop the average family tax bill by about $25.
In other business, the selectmen voted in favor of a moratorium on cell phone tower proposals in town. Their vote was dependent on reviewing an opinion of town counsel that has yet to be produced and reconsideration of the town's zoning bylaw regarding cell phone towers at fall Town Meeting.
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