Shrewsbury officials hold joint financial workshop

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By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – A joint workshop among the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, and the School Committee was held before the selectmen’s meeting Nov. 12.

For fiscal year (FY) 2014, the town finished with a positive cash balance. Schedule A collection was $14.794 million with motor vehicle excise showing the best growth at $5.224 million. Investment income was the biggest laggard at $401,647, versus $1,780,717 in FY 2008.

The FY 2015 budget will benefit from a $5.5 million operational override that was approved in June by the town’s voters. The adjusted free cash balance was $4.970 million but the reserve balance has fallen to just 4.9 percent. Favorable developments include a very positive health insurance renewal with a two-year agreement and projected health insurance plans for new employees.

The bad news, officials noted, is that the state budget may be as much as $500 million out of balance, with taxpayers being on the hook for the overage.

For FY 2016 the joint committee was unanimous in committing to reducing overhead and personnel costs and that “use of additional levy capacity must be carefully measured.” Health insurance renewal may be problematic since at least two towns are leaving the current West Suburban Health Group insurance system and because current loss trends are accelerating. The pension funding schedule of $475,000 will have to be stepped-up, and state aid remains an unknown, with Shrewsbury in 2015 $2.1 million below the aid in 2009. Finally, the impact of potential projects needs to be considered in making a new growth estimate for FY 2016.

School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Sawyer noted that the cost of special education continues to rapidly grow under Chapter 70 regulations. Dale Magee, the School Committee chair, reiterated that the state continues to impose upon the schools mandates which are unfunded and over which the town has no control, especially regarding Special Education.

Selectmen chair James Kane noted that the board has communicated to the state legislature the frustration resulting from continued Chapter 70 burdens placed upon the town, with no reply received back. Sawyer added that he sees no additional aid coming from the legislature, especially with continued cuts in state aid to the towns.