Submitted by The Bedford Finance Committee
Ben Thomas, Chair; Elizabeth McClung, Vice Chair; Paul Mortenson, Clerk
Tom Busa, Stephen Carluccio, Karen Dunn, Erica Liu, David Powell, and Stephen Steele

The Finance Committee has a responsibility for creating the budget for the Town, as well as providing for recommendations on articles in the Town Meeting Warrant. The committee reviews each article on the Warrant, listens to presentations, asks questions, discusses and finally votes for a recommendation.  While our recommendations are printed in the warrant, we are presenting additional information about our recommendations in advance of Town Meeting. It is our hope and goal that making this additional information available will be of benefit to the voters.

Click this link to download/print the Finance Committee’s 2019 Annual Town Meeting Article Write-up

Article 2 – Debate Rules
Recommend: Approval ~  7-0-0
This Article proposes the adoption of procedures for Town Meeting. These are the usual procedures under which we operate Town Meeting. They provide a means by which an orderly and efficient meeting may be run.
The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 3 – Consent Article
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0
This article represents a number of items which have been regularly voted upon in prior Town Meetings and need yearly approval. It also provides for the ongoing ability to conduct short-term borrowing, if necessary, in anticipation of revenue, as well as funds for the annual financial audit. Additionally, it accepts state law provisions for property tax exemptions. And, it allows the Selectmen to accept easements on behalf of the Town without the necessity of scheduling a Town Meeting to do so.
The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 4 – Bills of Prior Year
Recommend:  None
The Finance Committee expects that this article will be indefinitely postponed.

Article 5 – Revolving Fund Expenditure Limits
Recommend:  Approval ~       7-0-0

The Town has a number of Revolving Funds established in the Town’s General By-Laws for specific purposes. The managers of each of the Funds and the Finance Committee monitor the balances, income, and expenditures. This article sets an upper limit on the amount that may be expended from each fund within a given year. This is a prudent way to control expenses and keep the funds viable for the long term.
The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 6 – Amend the Fiscal Year 2019 Community Preservation Budget
Recommend:  Approval ~ 7-0-0

This article would increase the 2019 budget for the Bedford Housing Authority Life Management Program by $17,459. The budget passed at the last Annual Town Meeting covered only the amount necessary for the remainder of the 2018 calendar year, the amount requested now covers the cost through the 2019 fiscal year. The Finance Committee supports this program.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 7 – Bond Authorization – Community Preservation – Fawn Lake
Recommend:  Approval ~  6-1-0

This article authorizes borrowing to fund the dredging of Fawn Lake and replacing its dam.  The Finance Committee generally looks favorably on a project if, like this one, it has been vetted and approved by the Capital Expenditures Committee. The Finance Committee considered, among other things, possible disruption to the neighborhood, for example, from trucks carrying out the dredged material, and if this project will truly provide a long-term solution (compared to earlier attempts to improve Fawn Lake).  These concerns, and others, were adequately addressed by the Community Preservation Committee.  The Finance Committee also discussed, with no resolution, how the level of borrowing for CPC projects affects the town’s policy to limit the annual general fund debt service to no more than 10% of the town’s annual budget.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 8 – Community Preservation Budget – Fiscal Year 2020
Recommend:  Approval          ~ 7-0-0

The Community Preservation Committee presented its 2020 budget to the Finance Committee. The budget met with the approval of the Finance Committee.  The Finance Committee also discussed, with no resolution, how the level of borrowing for CPC projects affects the town’s policy to limit the annual general fund debt service to no more than 10% of the town’s annual budget.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 9 – Land Acquisition Fund
Recommend:  Approval ~ 7-0-0

This article will add 76 Loomis Street to the Town’s list of properties that can be purchased with the Land Acquisition Fund. Adding this property to the list gives the Town the flexibility to move quickly should this property come up for sale.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 10 – 43D Expedited Permitting for Priority Development Sites
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

This article will designate two industrial properties; 170 and 172 Middlesex Turnpike and 40, 50 and 60 Crosby Drive, as Massachusetts General Law 43D Expedited Permitting Sites. This statute requires that the Town render a permitting decision, approval or disapproval, within 180 days. These properties are projected to generate additional commercial property tax revenue of over $1 million per year. The Town staff involved with permitting decisions required for Chapter 43D support this proposal and is attractive to potential developers. The committee supports facilitating this economic development measure.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 11 – Acceptance of MGL Chapter 40, Section 8J-Commission on Disability
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

This article establishes a Commission on Disability.  It was viewed favorably as it can advise and assist town officials in ensuring compliance with federal and state disability laws and advance in other ways the needs of persons with disabilities.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 12 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment-Life Science Uses in Commercial Districts
Recommend: Approval  ~ 9-0-0

The Finance Committee concurs with the Planning Board’s view of an unintended consequence from the 2016 use regulation change for IT, Life and Material Science & Engineering. Longstanding tenants in the Commercial District should be allowed to modify their facilities without involving industrial mixed-use special permitting. To encourage Life Science companies to remain and grow in Bedford, the Finance Committee supports a return to the pre-2016 conditions for such uses.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 13 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment-Elimination of References to General Business Districts
Recommend: Approval ~ 9-0-0

The Finance Committee supported the Great Road Zoning District passed at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting, which eliminated all actual use of the General Business District zone in town, as well as two mixed-use overlay districts in the Great Road corridor. Now that a subsequent article is clearly and definitively presented which eliminates all reference to the no longer used districts, the Finance Committee agrees with the suitability of this bylaw housekeeping.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 14 – Zoning Map Amendment-Rezone 9A Benjamin Kidder Way from Limited Business District to Residence B District
Recommend: Approval ~ 8-0-1

Use of the Limited Business District was also superseded by the adoption of the Great Road Zoning District. Further elimination of reference to the Limited Business District will allow for its eventual removal. This parcel may not be developed given its wetland status and its open space deed restriction, the Finance Committee sees no adverse consequence to rezoning this parcel to Residence B for aesthetic reasons.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 15 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment-Restaurants over 5,000 Square Feet in the Great Road District
Recommend Approval: ~ 9-0-0

The rezoning of the Great Road corridor was intended to promote desirable uses, with unique, locally owned restaurants ranking high. The Finance Committee appreciates and supports the town’s willingness to appropriately adjust its zoning parameters to better achieve its strategic goals. Making the Great Road viable for attractive restaurants not only satisfies residents’ commercial desires, but also strengthens the town’s property and meals tax bases.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 16 – Zoning Bylaw Diagnostic and Reorganization
Recommend: Approval ~ 9-0-0

Recent efforts to update sections of the town’s Zoning Bylaw serve to establish that the time has come for a complete restructure and update, focused on consistency and legal conformity, rather than content. The job is too much to undertake in-house. The Planning Board informs that there are sufficient experts available to help the town accomplish the desired task in a prompt fashion. The Finance Committee assigns significant financial value to ensure that all users of the Zoning Bylaw can accurately interpret the town’s intent, prospectively and as applied.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 17 – Street Acceptance-Willow Lane
Recommend:   Approval ~ 7-0-0

The acceptance of this public way is in the best interests of the Town and is consistent with the current use and enjoyment of the areas surrounding Willow Lane.  Both the Planning Board and the Selectman have agreed that the Town should accept the Public Way and Finance Committee after their review agreed unanimously with this position
The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 18 – Petitioner’s Article: Statement of Town’s Concern at Lack of Federal and State Action Against Global Warming
Recommendation to be given at Annual Town Meeting

Article 19 – ProposedFiscal Year 2020 Capital Projects Plan
Recommend: Approval

  • Items 20-01 through 20-36 ~ 7-0-0
  • Item 20-37 ~ 6-1-0


This article would appropriate $2,253,604 from the FY 2020 tax levy to partially fund the proposed FY20 total capital projects plan in the amount of $16,739,297. The remaining $14,485,683, if approved would be funded through bonding, water/sewer rates, Chapter 90, Operating Budget and Community Preservation. The Finance Committee discussed the FY2020 proposed Capital projects in detail and supports its funding.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 20 – Bond Authorization-Inflow/Infiltration
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

This article would authorize bonding up to $440,058 to fund the multi-year project, which will be used to identify, quantify and develop plans to remove sources of Infiltration and Inflow within the Town’s wastewater collection system.  Approximately 35 miles of pipes will be inspected through flow isolation and smoke/dye testing.  In addition, repairs to sewer manholes and mains from prior studies will be completed.  This project will help identify and minimize the amount of stormwater that enters the sewer system, which has a direct impact on our MWRA sewer assessment.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 21 – Bond Authorization-John Glenn Middle School
Recommend: Approval  ~ 7-0-0

This article would authorize bonding for the John Glen Middle School Renovation Project. A system-wide review of space requirements affirmed the need for these renovations at the middle school to accommodate increased student enrollment.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 22 – Bond Authorization-Bedford High School
Recommend: Approval~ 7-0-0

This article would authorize bonding for the Bedford High School Renovation Project. A system-wide review of space requirements affirmed the need for these renovations at the high school to accommodate increased student enrollment.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 23 – Special Revenue-300th Anniversary
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

The Finance Committee reviewed this Article with Finance Director and agreed with the Town Manager and Selectman that the Town should begin planning for the celebration of this very special anniversary.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 24 – 41A Property Tax Deferral
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

The Town currently offers a tax deferral program to seniors whose income is below $40,000 and charges 8% interest on the deferred amount. This article will raise the income threshold to an amount established by the state (currently $58,000) and reduce the interest rate to 6%. At this time there is only one deferral on record dating back to FY2010. The goal of these changes is to make the deferral program more assessable to seniors. We anticipate a minimal impact on the Town’s cash flow and will have some flexibility to make adjustments if warranted.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 25 – PEG Access and Cable Expense Related Budget Fiscal Year 2020
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

The Community Media Committee presented to the Finance Committee this budget article and reviewed its historical and budgeted expenditures in the presentation.  After questions and discussion with the Community Media Committee, the Finance Committee unanimously agreed that the 2020 recommended budget was appropriate and sufficient to fulfill the operating needs of the PEG Access and Cable Expense Related Town programs.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 26 – Supplement Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 and Articles of the 2018 Annual Town Meeting

The Finance Committee expects this article to be indefinitely postponed

Article 27 – Salary Plan Additional Funding
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

This article is presented annually and establishes the pay ranges for non-school employees for the Town.  Two years ago the Town hired a consultant to review and update the salary ranges for non-school and non-union employees.   The intent is to offer market-based wages to employees or would-be employees in order to attract and retain employees.
The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 28 – Operating Budgets-Fiscal Year 2020
Recommend: Approval ~ 9-0-0

This article presents the Town’s operating budget, which is projected to increase by 5.25% for the coming fiscal year. It is constructed from the needs and requirements of all departments, balanced against current and expected revenues and expenditures.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 29 – Ambulance Enterprise Budget-Fiscal Year 2020
Recommend: Approval ~ 9-0-0

This article presents the Town’s operating budget for the ambulance service for the coming fiscal year. This budget is generally self-supporting, with a modest $28,000 subsidy from the Town’s General Fund.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 30 – Salary Plan-Additional Funding
Recommend: Approval ~  9-0-0

This article is presented annually and provides funding for the FY’20 compensation increases for non-school and non-union personnel.  This year the appropriation request of $228,779 represents an economic adjustment of 2.25% and Merit of 1.25% in the total base compensation for the non-union managerial professionals and administrative employees of the Town. This appropriation is the only source of funding for compensation increases based on merit and performance for these employees.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 31 – Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund Appropriation
Recommend: Approval ~ 9-0-0

This article appropriates $839,796 towards the Town’s unfunded liability for OPEB. This amount is an increase of 3.5% plus $100,000 over last year’s appropriation and reflects the Town’s Financial Policies as amended in December 2017. The most recent actuarial study estimates the Town’s Actuarial Accrued Liability is approximately $56 million and the current balance in the OPEB Trust Fund is $8.7 million, leaving an unfunded liability of $47 Million. Bedford has been proactive in managing this liability and compares favorably to other Massachusetts communities on this measure. The current contribution formula will be re-evaluated in five years unless it is prudent to do so sooner.
Finance Committee’s discussion around funding the OPEB liability has sought to find the right balance between mitigating the future risk to the Town of this liability versus the possibility of regulatory changes or pension reform that would make prefunding this liability disadvantageous. There is currently no law that requires prefunding OPEB and once funds are transferred into the OPEB Liability Trust Fund they cannot be used for any other purpose.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 32 – Supplement Accrued Sick Leave Fund
Recommend: Approval ~   9-0-0

This article appropriates $25,000 to a Sick Leave Buyback fund to support the buyback of accrued, but unused sick leave when an employee retires.  This is a forward-looking exercise, rather than reimbursing what the fund may have dispensed in a prior year.  Therefore, an analysis is done each year to determine the likely amount of funding that will be needed over the next 12 months. The Finance Director, Treasurer/Collector calculates this amount, which is based on the Town’s current and future sick leave liability.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 33 – Stabilization Fund Appropriation
Recommend: Approval ~ 7-0-0

The Town maintains a Stabilization Fund, a type of “rainy-day” fund, to help in times of financial stress. Since 2013, we have augmented this Fund in line with its purpose.  Our financial policies outline a fund balance goal of between 2% and 6% of the Operating Budget. We are currently approaching the top-end of this range and this allocation of $250,000 will bring us to an approximate balance of $5,470,000 or 5.8%.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 34 – Free Cash
Recommend: Approval ~ 9-0-0

The Town is allowed, by State Law, to make use of unrestricted funds from prior years (“free cash”).  Allowable uses are for any “one-time” items that are not structural parts of the operating budgets.  Example of one-time use are the capital budget, stabilization fund, and OPEB contributions. For Fiscal Year 2020, the operating budget from Article 28 makes use of over $5.8 Million from free cash.
Free Cash is defined by the Department of Revenue as; remaining, unrestricted funds from operations of the previous fiscal year including unexpended free cash from the previous year, actual receipts in excess of revenue estimates shown on the tax recapitulation sheet, and unspent amounts in budget line-items. Unpaid property taxes and certain deficits reduce the amount that can be certified as free cash. The calculation of free cash is based on the balance sheet as of June 30, which is submitted by the community’s auditor, accountant, or comptroller. Important: free cash is not available for appropriation until certified by the Department of Revenue.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

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