By Lizzie Seibert
To close out January, the Finance Committee heard a budget proposal from Antonio Battaglia, the chair of the Capital Expenditures Committee. Battaglia explained that the Capital committee approved 44 projects for Fiscal Year 2018 and delayed or removed four others, and the 44 approved projects would ultimately cost $7.9 million.
Battaglia presented a detailed explanation of each approved project coming from the Department of Public Works, town facilities, school facilities, police, and fire departments. The most expensive are a road resurfacing project for the DPW and a water meter replacement program, which will both cost over a $1 million each.
Battaglia also noted that there were two projects proposed for analyzing available space in Davis Elementary School: A space feasibility study and a space modification study. The feasibility study will assess space needs at Davis and how Davis could accommodate a larger enrollment; the space modification study would assess how Davis could be modified to address enrollment growth. If the space feasibility study is passed at town meeting, however, the modification project will not be necessary and the expenditures budget will be smaller. The important takeaway from the need to conduct these studies at Davis is that Bedford, especially with its young student population, is growing.
The Finance Committee questioned Battaglia on the approved projects for the Department of Public Works, specifically replacing dump trucks and buying snow removal machines, and whether or not this equipment is worth an additional $2 million. The committee asked to discuss these projects with the DPW director, who was not present, at a later meeting.
The Finance Committee also discussed philosophical uses of various town budgets, specifically whether or not an expansion of the Lane School parking lot should be a capital expenditures project or come from Lane’s contingency fund, which rests on the loan that Bedford holds for constructing Lane School. The Finance Committee plans to ask the School Committee about this during its budget proposal this week.
Finally, the Finance Committee discussed whether or not it should more deeply evaluate its policy on what to do with free cash in the town budget. It found a potential to have more free cash left in this year’s budget than it anticipated. FinCom member David Powell noted that a discussion is needed on whether or not to be less conservative with its model, put more cash into town health insurance, or spend more on town employee retirement pensions.
- Committee member Ben Thomas established that he will not be pursuing his ideas to charge town departments for their water usage this year, but would like to look into it for FY 2019.
- There is an opening on this committee. Any citizen interested in serving on the Finance Committee can apply at the Bedford Town Hall.
On February 3, the Finance Committee will hear budget proposals from the School Committee and the Selectmen.