By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Northborough–Town Administrator John Coderre presented a $58.5 million budget for Fiscal Year 2015 to the Board of Selectmen March 24, saying the spending plan holds the line on services while also making an important first down payment toward future health care liabilities.
Spending on both municipal government and K-8 schools would increase an equal 4.1 percent under the budget, which will be voted on at the April 28 Town Meeting.
“This is a maintenance budget,” Coderre said, adding that it includes no new staffing or major growth in services.
A major component of the budget is $500,000 in funding for the town's non-pension retirement liabilities. Known as Other Post Employment Benefits, or OPEB, the costs are associated with long-term health care costs for retired municipal workers.
The new funding would come from a combination of $300,000 in local meals and hotel taxes and $200,000 in general tax revenue and make Northborough one of the first communities to begin funding its future OPEB obligations.
Coderre said the fact that the town is beginning to address its future liabilities will help keep borrowing costs low should Town Meeting vote to fund the town's portion of the Lincoln Street School renovation and expansion project.
The budget also boosts funding for snow and ice removal, with $50,000 in new funds and $50,000 shifted from the Department of Public Works overtime account to the snow budget. The $346,000 requested for next year is just below the six-year average of spending, Coderre said.
“We need to step up that funding,” he added.
Other budget highlights include an additional $36,750 for the police department to fund the acquisition of tasers for the first time and a 1 percent increase in health care costs, a level that suggests long-term efforts to bring those costs down are paying dividends, Coderre said.
As proposed, the budget would add $218 in new taxes to the bill of the average home, worth $375,000, a more significant increase than in recent years, when substantial new growth–notably the Northborough Crossing – helped minimize tax impacts.
Northborough will be holding its Annual Town Meeting Monday, April 28, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Algonquin Regional High School auditorium, 79 Bartlett St.