Easton Town Administrator Presents Balanced Preliminary Budget
A new budget memorandum closes Easton's original budget deficit of $819,000.
Although there are missing components and final numbers yet to be determined, Town Administrator David Colton presented an updated Fiscal Year 2013 preliminary budget memorandum to Easton Selectmen Monday night that closes the $819,000 deficit illustrated in the town's February preliminary budget.
The updated numbers will still include the restoration of two firefighter positions and one police officer position.
Additionally, the FY13 budget will include two central dispatch personnel that were added during February's Special Town Meeting.
"This does not change anything that we proposed in the budget, such as two firefighters, police officer, and two dispatchers," he said. "It does not change any of that. We are still going ahead with that. They are included."
Colton said that since releasing the preliminary budget in February, a number of factors have allowed him to close the deficit.
He said that Easton will likely receive approximately $276,000 more in State aid than what was originally expected - totaling a net increase of $303,020 from FY12 to FY13. Colton cautioned that the State Aid numbers have not been finalized and "could change as we move closer to Town Meeting."
In addition to excise taxes, the town is now expecting to receive a 3.26 percent, or $1,922,737 increase in revenue from FY12 to FY13.
Also, Colton said a drop in premiums in some retiree plans has allowed the town to reduce the health insurance budget by $177,410, closing the deficit gap even more.
A drop in Southeastern Regional's School Budget by $32,416 from FY12 has helped bridge the gap as well. Originally, Colton planned for a 10 percent increase. However, a decrease in Easton student enrollment has allowed Easton to pay less. Therefore, $105,537 will be applied to Easton's budget deficit, Colton said.
The savings has allowed Colton to eliminate use of reserve funds in this year's budget. Originally, he had planned to use $133,000 in reserves.
"This budget no longer uses that," he said. "We’re able to balance the budget and not touch stabilization for the first time since 2008. That’s a good thing obviously. We need to next year start putting back in."
Colton said that the School Committee would likely ask for a 4.23 percent increase in its budget from FY12 to FY13. While that is more than originally expected (originally, the town had budgeted 4.04 percent), the projected increase in state aid is able to help absorb that, Colton said.
"They did a very good job bringing it to that number which is close to what we had targeted," Colton said.
The School Committee plans to discuss the details and vote on a budget at Thursday's School Committee meeting. The budget will be presented before the Selectmen on May 7.
Overall, the School Department, the town's largest department, will likely vote on a budget of $33,731,471.
While Colton was optimistic, he said he was "cautious". State revenue numbers and school department numbers are not finalized.
"I think we’re going to have something very close to this number," he said. "We're not done yet, so that’s a caution."
He also warned that not every year moving forward could be as positive for Easton. Health insurance numbers will likely rise more substantially in the future, and the town will spend more in its snow and ice budget.
"We’re good this year but we don’t want to get carried away with those numbers because we’re going to see health insurance increase to a more normal number and it’s going to snow," he said.