Northborough residents agree on budgets at Town Meeting

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By Art Simas Community Reporter

Northborough – At the Annual Town Meeting April 25 at Algonquin Regional High School, Town Administrator John Coderre presented an overview of the town's financial good health.

He said six to eight months of planning was responsible for a unanimous consensus among town officials on all warrant articles.

As a result, residents followed that lead and voted unanimously for:

– a general town government budget of $16.4 million, a 5.7 percent increase, with a total of $15.5 million to be raised by taxes;

– a Northborough schools K to 8 budget of $18.7 million;

– Northborough's assessment of $9.1 million for the Algonquin Regional School District;

– Northborough's assessment of $517,488 for the Assabet Valley Regional School District;

– $1.960 million worth of capital projects or items to be funded from free cash, including a pick-up truck for the Fire Department (replacing a 2005 vehicle), a new police dispatch/ station phone system (replacing the 1989 phone system), a Department of Public Works (DPW) garage truck lift (replacing the original 1984 lift at the garage), a DPW oneton pick-up truck with plow (replacing a 1999 model), a street sweeper for the DPW (replacing a 1999 sweeper that has exceeded its useful life), a DPW one-ton dump truck with plow (replacing a 1999 vehicle), and $375,000 to be used to partially fund roof repairs at the Marguerite E. Peaslee Elementary School. (The remaining $150,000 needed will be borrowed.)

A new ambulance, which will replace a 2004 model, will be provided to the Fire Department. The town will pay for the vehicle by borrowing money and from payments by thirdparty insurance companies.

Coderre told voters that the town's long-term financial stability is in good shape. For example, tax revenues were up 5.58 percent this past year and are expected to increase with the completion of the Avalon Bay apartment complex and the Northborough Crossing development located at the intersection of routes 20 and 9.

Considering those two projects alone, Coderre said, Northborough will receive an estimated $574,000 in new and recurring revenue.

“That's absolutely huge for us,” he said.

The budget contains no additional taxes, no layoffs or reduced services for residents. The $1.96 million that will be used for needed capital improvements will be from free cash, which does not contribute to the town debt.

“And our labor contracts are all settled for 0 percent or 1 percent for the next two years,” Coderre said. “I wish to thank the employees, departments and committees for working with us.”

Health insurance, which many times is a budget-buster for municipalities, increased by only 4.5 percent. Coderre credited this nominal increase to planning and the fact that teachers agreed to increase their share of health care costs two years ago, when the town was preparing the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget.

That saved $450,000 in FY 2010, he added.

The Algonquin Regional School District has also seen reductions to its budget requests since 2006. In that year (FY 2007), there was a budget increase of 12.4 percent. But from that year to the present, the budgets have had diminishing increases, from 6.25 percent in FY 2008 to 1.63 percent in FY 2010 and 0.55 percent for this year, FY 2012.

According to Northborough School Superintendent Charles E. Gobron, the school population at Algonquin Regional High School has increased from 1,279 students in 2004-2005 to 1,437 in 2010-2011.

Broken down by segment, Northborough's budget expenditures include this distribution: schools, 59.1 percent; town operating expenses, 20.6 percent; insurance and benefits, 10.9 percent; debt and interest, 5.2 percent; state and county assessments, 3.4 percent; and other funds, 0.8 percent.

Revenue sources include: local tax receipts, 80.9 percent; state aid, 9.8 percent; departmental receipts, 5.4 percent, free cash, 3 percent; and other funds, 0.9 percent.