Bedford’s municipal and school budget for the coming fiscal year totals more than $105 million; months of public preparation and examination smoothed its path to an easy and quick passage at Annual Town Meeting Tuesday.
This has been the trend for well over a decade. But there was something different Tuesday night—a solo protest, executed through remarks by Sandra Hackman, chair of the Council on Aging.
When the discussion reached the modest $259,673 Council on Aging budget line—one of the last in the document—Hackman related that her board originally requested almost $10,000 more which would move a part-time staff member to a full-time coordinator, serving an ever-growing client base.
But the request would have pushed the total budget over the Finance Committee’s 2.5 percent growth guideline, she explained, so that and 25 other “modest but important requests”—none totaling more than $40,000—were not salvaged.
Town Manager Sarah Stanton, even as she deleted those requests, labeled them “needs,” Hackman said. “They were central to enabling departments to provide essential services.”
She urged that the deleted proposals be restored for the Special Town Meeting warrant in the fall, and predicted that “the needs will still be there next year.”
Hackman stressed that the growth guideline for the schools was a percentage point higher than for town departments and that 3 percent would have covered virtually all of the departmental requests.
“I respect the effort to be fiscally prudent, but this was harmful and unnecessary,” she continued. The total additional expense of $250,000 breaks down to about $48 per household, she said. Hackman also pointed out that “we are not facing dire financial circumstances,” with one of the state’s largest potentials for raising taxes before reaching the Proposition 2 ½ levy limit.
Finance Committee Chair Steve Carluccio defended the process, saying that once the initial guidelines are approved, “then departments can come back to us with other requests.” The committee approved all of those requests this year, he said.
Other financial articles and action by town meeting, all approved, included:
- Ambulance enterprise budget of $1,503,884.
- Salary increases for managerial-level employees.
- Allocation of $500,000 to the stabilization fund, the town’s rainy-day fund.
- Allocation of $969,190 to the trust fund set up to offset future liability from other post-employment benefits – life and health insurance premiums for current and future town employees.
- Allocation of $6.21 million in surplus revenue, also called free cash, to offset non-recurring expenses. Carluccio said the state Department of Revenue certified the town’s total free cash at $9.7 million.Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763