Montuori Unveils $88.2 Million Budget For FY2014
Health insurance, contracts fuel increase.
Veterans of the municipal finance wars will tell you that Town Budgets are a lot like sausage -- you can decide whether or not you like the taste but you really don't want to know how it's made.
For the past few months, Town Manager Richard Montuori and his department heads have been hard at work at the fiscal sausage grinders and Thursday night, Montuori unveiled the finished product.
Montuori is proposing an FY2014 Budget of $88,265,603. It represents an increase of 2.97 percent (2,546,544) over FY2013.
A breakdown of the increase finds it is made up almost entirely of fixed costs such as a seven percent increase in health insurance premiums, as well as contractual obligations, such as two percent raises and step increases for multiple school department and municipal unions. There is also an estimated increase of $345,000 in the Shawsheen Tech assessment.
Montuori was able to present a balanced budget without having to dip into the town's stabilization fund, which brought praise from members of the Board of Selectmen.
"I really appreciate the transparency and the communication with this board and the collaboration with all the town departments," said Board Chairman David Gay. "I think this is the best budget we can get at this point in time."
Selectman Todd Johnson also voiced support for the budget and praised Montuori for putting it together with fiscal restraint.
"The only way we can change ... is to display discipline," said Johnson. "We've begun to do the right things. It's not pretty but it continues a trend of strong discipline."
Montuori acknowledged that fiscal discipline tends to leave some important items on the table, items he hopes the town will be able to address.
"We have so many priorities that the town and the school department have," said Montuori. "And they're genuine priorities - not a wish list - that we couldn't do.
Some of those priorities include education staffing, as well as money for staffing and overtime in police, fire and DPW.
Montuori's budget includes level funded state aid, something he feels cautiously optimistic about after talking with the local Legislative delegation. However, uncertain budget situations on the state and federal level prevent him from feeling confident about the town's financial position moving forward.
"I'd like to be optimistic and think that the bleeding as stopped," he said. "But there are still some unresolved issues on the state and federal level that will -- not might -- will impact us."
Tewksbury's FY2014 budget is now in the hands of the town Finance Committee, which will go over it line by line with each department head. Ultimate approval will be in the hands of Town Meeting voters in May.
"This isn't the end of the budget process, it's just the beginning," said Montuori.
A copy of the FY2014 Budget Presentation is attached to this story as a PDF file. A copy of the complete budget proposal will be available on the Town Website by this weekend.