The Bedford Select Board approved a proposed $60,598,245 budget for fiscal year 2024 on Monday night, sending it to the Finance Committee for scrutiny.
The overall number is a 4.36 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
One-third of the total represents municipal departmental operating budgets, presented last month by Town Manager Sarah Stanton. The $20,158,283 is a 6.7 percent increase, driven primarily by higher costs for goods and services, Stanton said. The Finance Committee earlier voted a guideline of a 3.5 percent rise.
Two primary non-discretionary drivers helped bring the overall percentage down. Insurance and benefits, almost $15 million, is projected to drop by about $490,000. And principal and interest on bonded indebtedness is budgeted at about $11 million, an increase of $269,9000, or 2.74 percent.
Overall, non-discretionary budgets are up 3.02 percent, including a 31 percent spike in utilities from $1,810,500 to $2,375,000.
The Finance Committee, which fixes the final budget version for the Annual Town Meeting warrant, will review the proposal with the Select Board at a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 26. Stanton told the board that this is the earliest the committee has received the budget in 15 years.
The following Thursday, Feb. 2, the Finance Committee will address the proposed fiscal 2024 school budget.
On Monday, there were no questions as the Select Board unanimously approved the proposed budget after a brief discussion. After board member Bopha Malone asked about the level of free cash, Stanton said she would prefer to see a balance between using free cash and using part of the available tax levy capacity to mitigate some of the impact of budget demands.
In her Dec. 19 cover letter to the Select Board, Stanton said, “The most significant budgetary challenge has been the widespread impact of inflation. Inflation rates over the past few months have been the highest they have been in 40 years and are affecting almost every sector of the economy. The Town of Bedford is no exception.”
She also proposed a few additional personnel: a human resources/benefits coordinator, increased hours for the position of assistant treasurer collector, and the addition of a part-time building inspector position in the Code Enforcement Department, “which is reflective of the increased demand for permitting in the commercial and residential sectors.”
Also, the budget includes $245,590 under information technology services for software costs relative to the first year of implementing the new Munis financial product.