TOWNSEND -- The Finance Committee discussed its fiscal 2015 budget in a brief meeting Thursday.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said he is still compiling the budget, but is waiting for two key pieces -- local aid funding from the state, and the town's assessment for the North Middlesex Regional High School budget, which is its largest expenditure.
"It makes it very difficult when you have a big unknown on the revenue side like local aid, and 50 percent of your expenditures for North Middlesex as an unknown. It makes it difficult to put together a budget," Sheehan said.
Although the budget can't be finalized without these numbers, Sheehan said he is still planning on a budget of about $18.38 million, a 2.3 increase from last year, as he told selectmen in December.
The tax levy will increase by the standard 2.5 percent, bringing it to $14.3 million, he said.
"The department budgets are for the most part in, and we're putting that together trying to come up with a balanced spending plan for next year," Sheehan said.
The North Middlesex Regional School Committee will hold its annual budget hearing in early March.
While local aid numbers from Gov. Deval Patrick's initial budget are available, the budget has not yet been reviewed and amended by the Legislature.
"We have the governor's proposal but we don't have action yet in the Legislature," Sheehan said.
Patrick's budget featured level-funding of local aid, which Sheehan called "a disappointing budget unveiling.
"Speaker DeLeo says the House will do better than the governor on local aid. What 'better' means, remains to be seen," Sheehan said.
In the meantime, Sheehan said he has been compiling the budgets of each town department.
Committee member Carolyn Smart questioned why department budgets hadn't been submitted to the Finance Committee. Smart said she had anticipated receiving the budgets for discussion at Thursday's meeting.
Sheehan said he would send the department budgets to the Finance Committee for review in the coming weeks.
The committee also approved an additional $75,000 for snow-and-ice removal to add to the Highway Department's budgets.
Sheehan said the appropriations for snow and ice removal are done incrementally, so towns can add additional money as needed, depending on how much snow comes each winter.
"This is the practice that the (Department of Revenue) recommends, to do it incrementally rather than a blanket appropriation," Sheehan said.
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