Town administrator previews $66 million FY20 budget at public hearing


By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Northborough – In a joint public hearing with the Appropriations Committee, Town Administrator John Coderre delivered the proposed FY2020 budget to the Board of Selectmen at their March 25 meeting. This budget will be voted on at the town’s Annual Town Meeting, Monday, April 22.

The $66 million budget was developed with a long-term perspective. It reflects level services and no significant changes with the exception of hiring a facilities manager in January 2021.

Revenue projections are expected to be modest with limited state aid and new growth.  The Algonquin Regional High School assessment, solid waste and recycling, and the regional retirement assessment are the primary budget drivers.

“Everybody talks about sustainable budget practices; this is the balance that you need to have in order to be sustainable. You can’t sacrifice long-term needs for short term wants,” stated Coderre.

His budget balances service, staffing, new building and equipment against long-term debt, infrastructure, unfunded liabilities, taxes and affordability.

The $66,016,688 budget, before factoring the enterprise funds (water, sewer and solid waste), is an increase of $2,178,498 over FY2019 or 3.41 percent.

The tax impact on the average home value of $460,091 is estimated to be $361 which is based on a 3-percent estimated increase in values over FY2019.

“We have shifting enrollment at our regional high school which we share with Southborough. That shifting enrollment in turn is shifting the assessment significantly onto Northborough this year,” Coderre said. “In order to meet a level service budget and in order to meet the minimum needs of the Algonquin Regional High School, we are going to have to dip into our levy capacity by about $900,000.”

Coderre stated that Northborough has the tax levy capacity to dip into which is an enviable position to be in. Not many communities have that luxury.

Approximately 80 percent of the town’s revenue comes from property taxes. FY2020 expectations include 8.8 percent coming from state aid, 2.6 percent in Free Cash, 6.8 percent from local receipts and 1.4 percent from other sources.

Projected expenditures in FY2020 include 58.6 percent going to schools and 21.3 to the operating budget. Insurance and benefits have been stable and is expected to be 13.3 percent. The remainder will be applied to debt and interest, OPEB, state assessments, stabilization and capital.

“The one staffing position that is being proposed is a facilities manager position. This position has been long overdue,” remarked Coderre. “It is an absolute priority.”

He said that his office is overloaded and the volume of issues and building-related items that he and the assistant town manager are dealing with makes this additional staff person a critical need.

This position is budgeted to come online in January for the remainder of the fiscal year with a $50,000 salary and will be fully budgeted for in FY2021.

Board Chair Dawn Rand inquired what the unused tax levy capacity was to which Coderre replied that it was about $2.8 million and they are planning on using $900,000 for next year.

Selectman Tim Kaelin supported Coderre’s argument in favor of hiring a facilities manager. The value of the hire to the community would exceed the salary expended.