Budget could rise slighty

LYNDEBOROUGH – Voters at town meeting on March 14 will see a proposed municipal budget that is “essentially flat,” Budget Committee Chairman Burton Reynolds told about a dozen residents (and as many town employees) at the Public Budget Hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 5. The rise could be as little as $25,000.

“This meeting is to ‘warn residents’ about what will be on the town meeting warrant,” Reynold said, “and to give people a chance to comment on the budget. We can make changes after this hearing.”

The proposed 2020 operating budget totals $2,165,071, about $45,000 higher than last year. Selectmen expect to dispose of two highway vehicles “which should bring it down to $25,000,” Reynolds said. “But this is one of those years that has an extra pay period. That’s about the $25,000. We’re pretty happy with it.”

However, Reynold cautioned, “the town budget is only about 30 percent of the tax bill,” and suggested everyone attend the school district budget hearing om Feb. 7. That figure is expected to rise.

Reynolds “hit only the highlights” during the hour presentation at the town office, and there was little comment4 from the audience. He then discussed the warrant, which has 18 articles, mostly contributions to various capital reserve funds.

Major budget changes include:

2020 is a town re-evaluation year which adds about $25,000. New software will also be purchased.

There are four elections this year: town meeting, two primaries and the general election, an extra $1,000.

The town has upgraded all technical services for about $25,000.

Health insurance is down because of one less person.

Last year the roof of the former town garage was replaced – a one-time expense, lowering that line. Cemetery costs are also down because the South Cemetery wall repair was also a one-time event.

The Police Department will not hire another full-time officer, preferring to stay with the current part time people. Reynolds said. “We have a great bunch of guys,” former fulltime people who like the work. The department also has upgraded computers.

Reynolds mentioned the on-going controversies around the ambulance service and a recently created “revolving fund” to cover inconsistencies in bill collecting. Wilton, which owns the service, “would like to use it for capital expenses,” he said, “if we can make that work.” There are no complaints about the services rendered.

The Fire Chief Brian Smith’s stipend has been increased by $2,000 “because of all the hours he puts in,” Reynold said. The turn-out gear is being replaced over a three-year cycle.

“There is a possibility of some grants,” Smith said.

The Highway Department is back to three full-time employees. “We tried with one less and it didn’t work,” Reynolds said. He listed roads to be worked on this year, part of the road upgrade plan. “Some of the roads being done were last done 10-12 years ago.”

Phase one of the Center Road upgrade will be completed, with the other two phases over the next two years. Center Road is one of the longest in town and second most heavily used, after Route 31.

The Wilton Recycling Center is under new management. “It needs a lot of work, but they’ve hired a new on-site manager.” Revenues are down. Member towns are billed for expenses, up about $18,000 to $96,000. The Center has a revolving fund which covers many capital expenses.

Payments into capital reserve funds total $112,500 and include fire and highway departments equipment and repairs, and a new fund for “municipal building infrastructure repair and replace,” which would be used for emergences such as heating system failures and roof leaks.

Individual warrant articles total $569,00. New requests include a Fire Department cutting tool, cardiac monitor/defibrillator, radios and a vehicle exhaust system for the fire station; a new cruiser and a dump truck. Most of those costs are covered by current capital reserve funds or grants.

Following the hearing the Budget Committee voted to recommend all of the warrant items. The Board of Selectman has previously done so.