By Kim Siebert MacPhail
In the case of the Selectmen, the focus was on funds from prior Town Meeting articles. Town Manager Reed’s office stated in a memo that “the General Bylaws of the Town provide that articles over two years and up to five years old may be carried over into the new fiscal year if the Selectmen vote to approve to do so.”
The Selectmen voted to close funding for six accounts that have been open for more than two years. Voting to close the accounts means that the unused monies will return to the Town’s general fund and appear in the next Free Cash calculations. The amounts that will be returned in this manner include the following:
- $9.15 from Article 17 (2011)—computer server/network equipment
- $189.04 from Article 11 (2008)—school computer system replacement
- $1696.20 from Article 16 (2010)—facilities/fire-gas monitoring system
- $33,616.84 from Article 26 (2007)—sewer pump station replacement
- $165.25 from Article 17 (2011)—DPW/soccer & lacrosse field turf replacement
- $62.50 also from Article 17 (2011)—water leak detection
The total residual from these six articles is $35,738.98.
The Selectmen also considered whether or not to extend the funding for 14 articles now beyond the two year period, ranging from $27.84 for Town information systems financial software to $38,220.81 for Middlesex Turnpike mitigation.The most common reason stated for continuing to keep these accounts open is that the project or purchase is still in progress, though some of the articles date back to 2009.The total for this category of funds is $147,018.15.
Before voting, Selectmen Bill Moonan questioned why some of these amounts merited being kept open.“There are two copiers, not very much money—less than $1,000 for a Town Hall copier replacement and $2,900 for a School copier replacement—but most of the money [from the original appropriation] has been spent. Do they have something in mind that they’re planning to buy or are they just trying to hang on to the money until something else comes along?”
Town Manager Rick Reed responded, “In the case of the Town Hall copier, it’s a balance from an original appropriation of $7,500. [Since that amount was appropriated,] you’ve got another copier being replaced. We’ll use these remaining funds first.”
Moonan next questioned the two line items from 2010 pertaining to the doors at the John Glenn Middle School: $19,242.00 for door hardware and $12,600.00 for corridor security doors. “Apparently we haven’t spent a penny since 2010? They’re just doing the work now? I don’t mean to be an obnoxious nitpicker, but what I’m concerned about is that we appropriate money and then don’t spend it.”
“I remember that the doors had an issue,” said Selectman Mark Siegenthaler. “There was a tangible issue—something about the locks, I believe. It isn’t that the work [just hasn’t been attended to].”
“Also, keeping it in perspective,” added Reed, “a total of $147,000 [for all 14 articles together] for three years of appropriations is relatively small….I think the amount in the past has been larger than it is this year.”
The third category for the Selectmen’s consideration was funds for which two years have not yet passed since the original appropriation. This year, there are 17 articles of this type, totaling $491,604.10. The amounts range from $3,536.05 for John Glenn Middle School lighting to $128,000 for the main sewer station. Again, the projects or purchases were described as in progress or not yet complete.
“I want to make sure I’m reading this right.…Article 14 from fiscal year 2012…. $59,000 for DPW vehicles hasn’t been spent for over a year to buy those vehicles we were just dying to have?” asked Moonan.
“I’m sure we purchased all the vehicles we were required to,” responded Reed. “What we don’t know each year is how much we’re going to get for trade-ins, so we estimate for Town Meeting. When bids come in, sometimes the overall estimated purchase will be less in cost to the Town [than anticipated]. What that does is it creates a roll-over balance, and what we’ll do this year when we purchase [another round of replacement] vehicles, we’ll use the remaining balance….At the time of Town Meeting, we identify the balance from the previous [corresponding] article and use that to fund the current budget item transfer.”
Following Reed’s explanation of the process, the Selectmen voted unanimously to close, continue, and carry over the balances as requested.
The Finance Committee took the first steps toward building the FY 2014 budget by looking at a current financial snapshot of FY13.
Victor Garofalo, Director of Finance, reported that, due to several contributing factors, there is now an additional $619,906 in unused tax levy, making Bedford’s total unused levy just over $1.2 million.
Reviewing changes that have occurred since Annual Town Meeting, Garofalo reported that the town has seen increased revenue in the following areas:
- $647,110 more than expected in state aid for public schools (otherwise known as Chapter 70 funds);
- $74,000 more in Mitre Corporation’s payment in lieu of taxes. The assessors have reviewed the model by which Mitre’s contribution is calculated. With this $74,000, Mitre’s payment to Bedford for FY13 will increase to $1.504M.
Other changes include:
- $80,000 not used from the capital appropriation for the Lane School roof replacement/repair to be returned to the general fund.
- $60,000 (estimated) that may be necessary to cover water costs and DPW overtime related to this summer’s total coliform bacteria eradication efforts. Funds were not requested at this time, but Garofalo alerted FinCom to that a reserve fund transfer request was possible in the future for this purpose.
Garofalo downgraded his expectations for investment income for the coming year from $241,000 to $201,000 saying that “rates are just not going anywhere.” He added, “One of the reasons we used to make so much money in investment income is because we had a lot of projects going on in town. We had more money in the bank to earn investment income. We don’t have any borrowed projects out there that are in the bank, so basically we’re just earning income on our daily cash flow.”
All in all, anticipated revenue is up $398,835 and anticipated expenses are down $221,071 equaling a net effect of a $619,906 increase in unused levy capacity. This amount added to the previous unused levy capacity yields a sum of $1.2 million.
Garofalo said that the question leading up to Special Town Meeting is what the Finance Committee will recommend that the Town do with the surplus. The options mentioned at the meeting were: leave it alone and do not raise taxes, spend it on something else, move it into the Stabilization Fund, or put it toward unfunded liability accounts for Town employee retiree benefits (OPEB).
“There are many possibilities,” said Finance Committee member Ben Thomas.
“Yes,” said Garofalo. “It’s good news.”