The temporary court order limiting wind turbine operation to less than 50 percent of their capacity will result in a $190,000 line item to pay for operating expenses.
The proposed operating budget for the Town of Falmouth in fiscal year 2016 calls for an increase of 2.62 percent to accommodate growing health insurance rates and employee benefits, along with a modest increase for public safety.
Selectmen have until Friday, January 16, to review and make changes to the budget of more than $119,000,000 before it heads to the finance committee for further scrutiny.
“The 2016 budget continues to demonstrate disciplined, conservative revenue forecasting along with modest budget increases while living within the limits of proposition 2 1/2,” town manager Julian M. Suso said at the meeting of the board of selectmen on Monday night, January 5.
The proposed increase, which exceeds the yearly property tax increase levy, will be shored up mainly with revenues freed up by bonding debt, Mr. Suso said.
Major budget pressures include a 7 to 15 percent increase in employee health insurance rates, a 5 percent assessment increase to the retirement system’s unfunded liability, and a 34 percent increase to the town’s insurance line item.
Although new governor Charles D. Baker was given an extra five weeks to submit his proposed state budget, town finance director Jennifer Petit is confident state aid, which comprises about 8 percent of the town’s revenue, will not decrease.
The proposed town budget adds one municipal custodial position and a police department domestic violence coordinator.
Mr. Suso said the temporary court order limiting wind turbine operation to less than 50 percent of their capacity will result in a $190,000 line item to pay for operating expenses.
Questions about whether to maintain the current level of funding for the stabilization accounts in lieu of increasing spending for town schools arose during the 3-1/2-hour selectmen’s meeting.
The town manager’s office proposes to continue to fund reserves by allocating close to $1.5 million to the general and capital stabilization funds.
“I don’t think we need to be Scrooges,” said selectman Samuel L. Patterson, referring to feeding the reserves versus investing in public programs specifically augmenting the school budget.
“We have cut back on programs and we know there is a growing mental health need among the school population. The school system struggles to meet growing needs and we haven’t given them opportunity to meet serious unmet needs,” he said.
Superintendent of schools Bonny L. Gifford said she is optimistic the schools’ needs will be met with the $46 million earmarked for schools in the town’s budget and with the expected state aid.
Ms. Petit stepped in to make clear the proposed school allocation did not come from the school committee, which is waiting for state aid numbers, but from her office. She said she has been meeting frequently with the school finance director to calculate the figure.
Mr. Patterson, a former school board member, said the problem is the state money will not be available until November, which is too late for the schools to hire extra staff.
“We have a cash availability issue,” he said.
Selectman Susan L. Moran asked Ms. Petit to calculate the “actual number allocated to the school system.”
Although the schools receive 38 percent of the town’s yearly operating budget, Ms. Moran asked for ancillary town funding, including school personnel and building costs, to be included in the figure.
“It is important to have a strong school system, but it is important to have all the facts,” she said.
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