TOWNSEND -- A review of the proposed budget for fiscal 2014 found both the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee on the same page.
Both of the boards agreed to increase the snow and ice budget during a joint meeting on April 16. The original proposal included an increase of $25,000. The boards agreed to an increase of $50,000, bringing the line to $175,000. Winter operations goes into deficit spending each year. Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said he would like the line to eventually be raised to $200,000 or $250,000.
The town could pay up to $180,000 more for the county retirement system this year. The board asked Sheehan to send a strongly worded letter to the Middlesex County Retirement Commission asking for an explanation for the increase and a reason they have not replied to earlier communications. In previous years, the payment went up about $10,000 a year, Selectman Bob Plamondon said.
"Who are they accountable to?" Selectman Sue Lisio said.
"In effect they do whatever they want to," Sheehan said.
At the start of the meeting, next year's proposed budget was 2.1 percent higher than a budget based on changes made partway through the current year when the baseline budget changed because of the need to close a $417,000 deficit.
Townsend did not pass a school override. Because the two other member towns, Pepperell and Ashby did, Townsend had to find the money within the budget rather than raise the tax rate.
The budget passed in the spring was based on a projection of a decrease in revenues, Sheehan said. The later amendments to the budget were based on actual increases in revenue.
The increases in revenue, the usual 2.5 percent increase in the tax levy and the transfer of $203,500 from capital funds to pay for a portion of the roof for the Spaulding School cover the increase in the budget, he said.
Wage increases are in the proposed budget. Stipend and nonunion employees will receive a 2.5 percent increase. Contracted employees also received raises. The total increases to wages is not yet known because union negotiations are ongoing.
The Fire Department budget increased "marginally" by $13,000 in order to pay for per diem wages. "The chief has done a good job on holding the line on his budget," Sheehan said.
The energy budget for municipal buildings was raised by $5,000 to $75,000, streetlights increased from $15,000 to $17,500. Sheehan said the Energy Committee is looking into purchasing the lights for future savings but have not yet gotten a quote from Unitil.
The Police Department is higher by $25,000. They requested an additional $25,000 for training and a reduction in wages for the communication department made to cover the budget shortfall. The position was not filled at the time. A new employee was hired March 1.
The 2.1 percent increase in the budget will change with the increase in the snow and ice line.