Budget is Balanced
BY TOM REILLY
SUTTON – Town Administrator Jim Smith told the selectmen at their April 2 meeting that the recent $5 million school borrowing has raised the budget by $1.1 million though the budget was still balanced.
Smith said he is still committed to hiring a new police officer who would be used as a school resource officer and planned to fill a vacant sergeant’s position. He would be adding one highway department employee to oversee cemeteries. He noted he was increasing the snow and ice budget by $20,000 at town accountant Tim Harrison’s request, bringing the total amount to $150,000. Smith said Harrison was tired of overages.
The town administrator said under the final budget, the school department’s appropriation increased by $550,000. The capital plan for the schools remained at $330,000 while school unemployment costs dropped to $80,000, down from $120,000. Smith added the town continues to pick up $52,000 in data processing costs for the schools and gets the benefit of having its technical assistance addressed proactively.
Smith noted there was less of a need for school department unemployment money in this budget because the school budget has been increased significantly. He said the town has negotiated a $300,000 decrease in its health insurance costs. The town switched to the New Enhanced Value Plan which has significantly higher co-pays but also allows for a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) that will reimburse active employees for outpatient stays and inpatient hospital stays but not for trips to the emergency room.
Smith told the Board that for the first time he was recommending the boat excise tax revenues be split between the watershed associations for Lake Singletary and Manchaug Pond.
He also noted there is a citizen petition warrant article that seeks $5,000 for Lake Singletary. He said he has yet to hear the Finance Committee’s opinion on this article.
Smith said he was recommending the town use free cash to pay retiring Highway Director Mark Brigham’s $30,000 sick leave buyback. $100,000 would go into OPEB account to continue to fund the town’s post retirement liability while $70,000 in free cash would go into the stabilization fund.
The town administrator said he thought he had a good budget and that it would go a long way toward dealing with the town’s long term needs. The Board agreed in its comments, with all of the selectmen complimenting Smith and Harrison for their work on the budget.
“We’re really blessed to have the team we have,” said Selectman Ken Stuart. Selectman Dave Hall said it was because of hard work and long-term fiscal planning.