By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The Westborough Select Board, Advisory Finance Committee and School Committee participated in a tri-board summit meeting on Sept. 23.
School Committee Chair Kristen Vincent said that the priorities of the meeting were to launch the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget planning process, create a common understanding of Westborough’s current fiscal position and to identify budgetary priorities.
“The ultimate goal of this is to have a smooth and effective budget planning process,” she said.
Town Manager Kristi Williams presented about the close-out of the FY 21 budget on June 30.
Williams said that, compared to FY 20, Westborough in FY 21 had a higher free cash balance, an operating budget increase of 2.65 percent, and an increase in the average single family tax bill of 2.33 percent, or $10,300.
Williams also presented a graph showing Westborough’s free cash balance at the end of FY 21, $13,160,890, compared to other communities in the area. Westborough’s was the third highest, lower than Lexington’s at $17,338,059 but significantly higher than Southborough’s at $1,400,293. It also represented an increase from the free cash balance by the end of FY 20, which was $11,941,082.
“You can see that we have obviously ended the fiscal year in a strong financial position,” said Williams.
Town Planner Jim Robbins presented on the town’s recently-approved master plan. Advisory Finance Committee Chair Michael Barretti asked when a cost estimate for the master plan would be available. Robbins said many of the plans in the master plan would be done in house and absorbed by staff hours. He said that the Planning Board would develop priorities in an implementation plan. Cost estimates would then be presented to the town.
“I just think, from a taxpayer point of view, when we gave our message at the last town meeting, I think we were pretty clear that we would like to see costs to taxpayer estimates up front,” Barretti said. “Not halfway through or at the end of an implementation.”
Robbins said that most people working on the master plan understand that it is a guidance document, and not a specific capital plan.
Williams, presenting on the FY 23 budget process, said that there will be a series of budget and capital planning meetings throughout this fall, with a budget due to the Select Board and Advisory Finance Committee by Dec. 21. There will then be a budget hearing at a Select Board meeting in January.
“Hopefully we will be back in this room for a joint departmental budget meeting with the Select Board and Advisory Finance Committee,” Williams said.
Williams also presented on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that is now in process. Westborough will receive approximately $5.6 million from ARPA, Williams said. As of her presentation, the town had received $11.8 million in requests from 22 proposals submitted by 11 town departments.
Williams said the Finance Team would evaluate the proposals and make recommendations to the Select Board and Advisory Finance Committee before proposals are awarded from November through December.