Friday, April 30, 2004
State aid still uncertain as Town Meeting approaches
Chair Lisa Jensen-Fellows and member Deb Belanger of the Finance Committee (FinCom) appeared before the Board of Selectmen on April 27 to work on last minute details for the Annual Town Meeting next Monday, May 3. "We're in good shape," said Jensen-Fellows, expressing pride in the FinCom's efforts on the FY05 budget. One question still remaining is the amount of state aid that the town will receive and whether this might negate the need for Article 6 which requests an override of $24,089 to provide additional funding for town departments. (See Warrant Article summaries beginning this page.)
Article 6 necessary?
Town estimates have pegged the FY05 state aid at $1,610,186, but Governor Romney's budget has recently shown that the number may rise to $1,648,925. This would add $39K to the town's coffers and remove any need for the Article 6 override. "We should take a look at not putting Article 6 forward," responded Chair Tim Hult. Both Selectmen Doug Stevenson and Tony Allison agreed, but John Ballantine worried about another component of state funding, "in lieu of taxes [on state-owned properties within the town]", whose decrease might offset the Governor's largesse.
Jensen-Fellows was inclined to leave Article 6 on the Warrant, but asked the Selectmen to wait until FinCom meets later this week. Both the Selectmen and FinCom understand that they must be in agreement before Town Meeting and Hult concluded that if FinCom says yes to removing Article 6, the Selectmen would go along.
Stabilization Fund level
Jensen-Fellows also stated that the FinCom would like to see a policy recommending that the Stabilization Fund balance target 5% of the current fiscal year operating budget. They believe that a 5% Stabilization Fund balance is fiscally prudent and that bond agencies look favorably on municipalities that maintain such a reserve. Given the expectation of rising interest rates and major capital needs in the next few years (for example, for school renovations), a diminished bond rating would result in significant interest expense. Also, a balance of approximately $ 1million would allow Treasurer Larry Barton to occasionally borrow interest-free from the fund when cash flow shortages arise. Hult explained that the Selectmen agree with the concept, but would not act on it that night because they had just seen the proposal for the first time.
Article 13 on the Warrant asks to transfer money from unspent town accounts into the Stabilization Fund, bringing its balance up to just over 5% of the FY05 town operating budget.
Jensen-Fellows and Trask re-up
Both Lisa Jensen-Fellows and David Trask were reappointed by the Board of Selectmen to another three-year term on the Finance Committee, ending in 2007.
© 2004 The