Westborough’s free cash projected at $9.4M after Town Meeting

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Westborough’s free cash projected at $9.4M after Town Meeting
Westborough’s total current free cash is about $14.9 million. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – Pay for capital items with free cash now, or pay for those later?

That’s the situation facing residents as they deliberate on fiscal 2025 budget items at the Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, March 23.

For the past several months, town officials have been trying to reduce the impact of a proposed property tax increase; for the average single-family home that increase currently stands at $835 for fiscal 2025.

One member of the Advisory Finance Committee, Rod Saffert, has called the proposed tax increase “egregious.” 

During the Advisory Finance Committee meeting on March 14, Saffert suggested cutting capital items from the budget. However, Town Manager Kristi Williams pointed out that those items had already been approved by both the committee and the Select Board. Also, several members said pushing items into a future budget would not guarantee funding.

Since most of the capital items are requesting funds from free cash, the committee discussed its use with interim Finance Director Jonathan Steinberg and Williams.

According to Williams, the town’s current free cash total is about $14.9 million, of which $5.5 million has been set aside for items during the fall Town Meeting in 2023 and the Annual Town Meeting in 2024. It also includes $450,000 slated to help offset the tax increase.

According to the town’s Comprehensive Fiscal Management Policy, the combined balance of free cash and the stabilization fund should be maintained at 10 to 15% of the general fund.

Free cash in excess of the town’s goals could be used to lower the tax rate, fund Other Post-Employment Benefits, appropriate for non-recurring capital items, etc.

According to Williams, the most recent reserve summary has free cash at around $9.4 million (after all Town Meeting capital articles have been funded), and stabilization at around $5.9 million; combined, it’s about 12.37% of the general fund, which is within the current goal.

The capital items requesting funds from free cash are as follows:

Emergency Management – Town Hall Security System Upgrades: $107,313 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $13.27)

Fire Department – Mobile Column Lift: $96,530 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $11.94)

Fire Department – Ambulance Replacement: $308,498 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $38.16)

Police Department – Vehicle Replacement (four): $265,000 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $32.78)

Public Works – administrative vehicle replacement (three): $112,500 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $13.92)

Public Works – One-Ton Vehicle Replacement: $190,000 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $23.50)

Public Works – Six-Wheel Dump Truck Replacement: $299,000 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $36.99)

Schools – High School RIM Repairs Design: $60,000 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $7.42)

Schools – High School C Wing Roof Restoration Design: $192,000 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $23.75)

Schools – High School A & B Wing Roof Replacement Design: $504,000 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $62.34)

Total on Capital Articles – $2,134,841 (tax impact if not in capital plan – $264.08)

Town Meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the high school auditorium.

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