Town Manager René Read presented his first balanced operating budget for the town this week and it includes two new full-time positions and a less conservative estimate of revenues — a position he has had to take to balance the budget.
The FY2015 operating budget totals $66.802 million, which is over $1.22 million more than the current fiscal year. This translates into a 1.88 percent increase. This figure does not include the water department budget or the Percy Walker pool budget, which are self-sustaining enterprise funds
“As of this evening, the budget is balanced,” said Read at Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting. The town manager is required by town bylaws to present a balanced budget 75 days before the annual town meeting.
Read cautioned that the budget was still preliminary because both expenses and revenues can change before the March 8, 2014 annual town meeting.
The budget includes funding for a new full-time information technology assistant and a new full-time HVACR (heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refridgeration) technician. The information technology department has been made up of one person since it began in 1998. Read said the IT assistant is needed to meet the demanding changes in technology and to assist in upgrading and maintaining the town’s infrastructure. The HVACR technician is being proposed by the town’s new facility director Brian Cherry to help reduce the town’s re- liance on outside contractors who maintain the mechanical systems in its buildings.
The IT salary budget of $158,980 shows a 84.65 percent increase, or an extra $72,880, some of which will go to pay for a new assistant.
The facilities manager budget projects a 50 percent increase in salaries, a jump from $80,000 to $120,000.
“The addition of these two positions is much needed and has been too long in the queue,” said Read.
Read justified the expansion of the town government by saying that “while revenues are tight, we recognize that we, town management, have an obligation to provide quality service to the residents and taxpayers of Duxbury.”
The “tight revenues” for the next fiscal year are due in part to the loss of beach sticker revenue this year, the unpredictability of selling those permits next year, the need for an extra $200,000 for the beach lease and an extra $317,000 for the Plymouth County retirement fund.
Local receipts collected during FY2013 were down over $200,000 from the previous year, said Read. The majority of this can be attributed to a decrease of $235,000 from revenue from licenses and permits and a $40,000 decrease in motor vehicle excise taxes.
“The revenue side is a little challenged,” said Read, adding that “there is no reason to believe that revenue will improve in the area of local receipts.”
Read has decided to be less conservative in estimating what the revenues will be for next year, leaving him more money to use for the budget.
Read explained his position: “Unlike the years before, the estimated revenues represent slightly more than 90 percent of the prior year’s actual local receipts collected. This is a variance from our previous practice of (estimating a collection of) 85 percent (of previous receipts). Our conservative approach has served us well when (the) unexpected... occurred. However, unexpectedly high increases in assessments to the town necessitated this course of action.”
Finance Director John Madden said that his past practice of using 85 percent of the previous year’s revenues to balance the budget has allowed him to build up reserves over the year to use to mitigate any unforeseen expenses. An example of this was the $200,000 hike in the beach lease this year.
“I can’t predict them, but I can try to prepare for them,” Madden said.
Some notable increases in the operating budget are the veteran’s services budget rising over 27 percent, or $25,525 to provide more benefits for the increasing number of veterans applying for them; the municipal services department (formerly inspectional services) expense budget rising almost 83 percent, or $38,100, to fulfill the town manager's vision of selling beach and other stickers online; the legal services budget rising $18,000 to keep up with revised expectations of the actual costs of town counsel; the town's contribution to the Plymouth County retirement fund increasing $317,748 or 12.71 percent; and the cost of insuring both the old and new middle and high school buildings, an extra $77,792.
The FY2015 operating budget includes the following: general government: $2.5 million, a 5.73 percent increase; public safety: $6.9 million, a 5.04 percent increase; education: $31.9 million, 3.23 increase; public works $3.9 million, a .59 percent decrease; library and recreation: $1.45 million, a 3.16 percent increase; human services: $657,593, an 8.66 percent increase; member benefits and insurance, $10.39 million, a .74 percent decrease; and debt service: $8.913 million, a 2.57 percent decrease. The water department budget totals $2.18 million, a 5.18 percent decrease. The pool budget totals $381,154, a 2.61 percent decrease.