Town Officials Get an Early Start on Daunting Budget Challenge
Montuori pushes up process by one month to give Finance Committee additional time.
The reality of the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget is that Tewksbury officials will likely have to figure out how to deal with crippling cuts in state aid.
But they will have more time to come up with solutions.
Town Mananger Richard Montouri has pushed up the budget process by one month, in order to provide as much time as possible to deal with the fiscal challenges facing town in the coming year. In his FY 2012 Budget Message, sent to Department Heads on Nov. 17, Montouri indicated that operating budget and capital outlay requests need to be submitted to his office by Dec. 3.
"I'm not going to say this schedule is any better than the previous one but its a schedule I'm used to using," said Montuori.
The town manager, who began working in Tewksbury at the start of 2010, in the middle of the budget cycle, said he plans to be able to put a completed budget in the hands of selectmen by mid- to late January. In turn, The Board of Selectmen should be able to pass it along to Finance Committee no later than early February. Public hearings will likely take place in mid-to late February.
Town Meeting is in May.
"I'm hoping this process will be as transparent as possible," said Montuori. "Copies of the budget will be available at the Senior Center and at the Library. We want the process to be straightforward. It shouldn't be complicated.
"If anyone does have any questions about the budget, they can give my office a call."
While Montuori is trying to make the budget process as simple as possible, the budget challenges facing the town are anything but simple.
In his budget message memo, Montuori told the department heads that any salaries not subject to contractual obligation, will be frozen for FY 2012. In addition, he is requiring every department head to cut their expense budget 10 percent from FY 2011. There is also a moratorium on new capital outlay requests.
The reason for the cuts in expenditures is due to anticipated cut in revenue. In Fiscal Year 2011, Tewksbury received a total of $15.4 million in state aid, including $12.3 million in Ch. 70 education aid and another $2.35 million in Lottery aid.
Those numbers are expected to be slashed in Fiscal Year 2012, as the state struggles to find a way to deal with a $2B structural deficit. It's not a question of "if" aid will be cut, it's just a question of "how much?" The answer to that question, said Montuori, depends on who you talk to.
"I'm hearing anhywhere from 5, 10, 12 percent," he said.
The news could be worse for the School District, which has seen a drop off of several hundred students in recent years. To date, the town has been "held harmless" b the state and aid has not been cut due to the declining enrollment. However, that could change this year, as the state attempts to balance its budget.
But Montuori said he isn't ready to push the panic button yet. He said his plan is to take a conservative approach to the budget, without making sweeping cuts that might do damage to community services.
"I don't want to scare people. I'd rather approach the budget as realistic," he said. "I don't want to make cuts and then have it turn out that I didn't have to. We can always go back and make more cuts later if we need to."
Montuori will provide the Board of Selectmen with an update at its meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
General Govt. $27.9 million budget --- $2.35 million lottery aid
School District $43.7 million --- 12.2 million Ch. 70 aid.