Annual Town Meeting ~ 2017: Residents Approve $87+ Million Budget as Town Meeting Concludes

By Lizzie Seibert

For an overview of Bedford’s Annual Town Meeting–night one, please reference:

The largest sum of money that residents voted on was the Town Operating Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018. The operating budget was presented by the Finance Committee, which has been discussing fiscal needs with each of Bedford’s departments and committees since October 2016. In his budget presentation, Finance Committee Chair Stephen Steele outlined the specific guidelines that the Committee used to create the budget: a guideline to increase the tax levy by 2.5% for all departments and committees, except for the School Department which received a  guideline of 3.5% due to growing enrollment and special education needs; projected town revenues of $97,927,527 for FY2018 ); and a conservative desire to overestimate town expenses and underestimate revenue. The total operating budget is $87,067,632. Residents unanimously voted to approve this budget.

The only aspect of the Finance Committee’s budget that residents wished to discuss was whether or not town departments pay for their water usage, as town residents do. Steele answered that Bedford currently meters all of its water but town departments are not charged for it. One resident then wondered if it would be possible in the future to appropriate an amount in the town budget that would be the town’s use of water, so residents could pay for their own water usage. Steele replied that the Finance Committee had been discussing this internally and hoped to have a plan to do so soon.

The Finance Committee’s proposals for its Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Liability Trust Fund Appropriations and Stabilization Fund Appropriations were additionally voted to pass by residents but fell under some discussion. OPEB is Bedford’s fund for health and life insurance benefits for current and future retired town employees. A Bedford resident expressed concern over whether or not enough ($593,900) was being appropriated into this fund, and if the Finance Committee or Selectmen knew when Bedford might need to begin drawing from it. Selectmen Mike Rosenberg responded that it was not yet known when Bedford may need to use the fund, but he thought that $593,000 was enough for FY 2018. A resident also questioned the appropriation to Bedford’s stabilization fund ($500,000), saying that “It seems we have had an amazingly flush set of years and we think there is a deficit coming, why not put this closer to $1 million? We don’t know what is going to happen in the future.”. Steele responded by saying that he thought Bedford was “doing fine currently,” and by putting $500,000 into the fund, the Finance Committee was “meeting all of its (stabilization) obligations.”

Bedford Town Meeting concluded at 11 pm on March 28. There will be a special town meeting this fall to re-discuss town finances including OPEB and free-cash.

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