Funds for turf field included in Almond's proposed budget

Funds for turf field included in Almond's proposed budget

LINCOLN - Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond presented his $78.8 million budget proposal to the Budget Board Wednesday night, calling for a 3.5 percent budgetary increase from last year and $5 million in capital resolutions that include the $1.5 million sought by the School Department to create an artificial turf field at Ferguson Field at Lincoln High School.

Other proposed capital resolutions include the construction of a police station addition, renovations to Chase Farm Park and Albion Park, and the relocation and renovation of the Hot Potato School.

The budget proposal includes a tax levy increase of $641,954, or 1.22 percent, which is estimated to "be absorbed by low to moderate increases in overall assessment growth to within .5 percent of the proposed expenditures," Almond said in a letter to the Budget Board.

The $78.8 million budget consists of a municipal operating budget of $19.02 million, a school operating budget of $50.96 million, municipal debt service of $634,063, and school debt service of $3.19 million. The recommendation represents a total increase of $2.7 million, or 3.5 percent. Almond noted there is an "unexpended credit" of $1.93 million from last fiscal year's budget for revision of the proposed police department addition.

Municipal spending is proposed to increase by $68,590, or .36 percent, while school spending is proposed to receive an increase of $1.3 million, or 2.72 percent, which includes $848,183 in additional state aid and a $500,000 increase in the local appropriation.

Only two administrators are proposed to receive salary increases: Rescue Department Acting Chief Ronald Gagne, with a 1.96 percent raise; and Building Official Roger Pierce, with a 3.97 percent raise.

Almond said Gagne is still a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters and that contract has not expired, and Pierce has been recommended for "a slight salary adjustment" due to some added duties. No raises were recommended for non-union, Town Hall, Department of Public Works or library employees, he said, as they will be determined during pending negotiations.

"The FY 14-15 budget as recommended for both municipal and school departments continues to recognize that while some economic indicators are beginning to improve, many of our residential and business property taxpayers are still facing very difficult financial challenges," Almond said. "Therefore, we attempted to limit new expenditures for FY 14-15 to those revenues identified through savings, estimates of moderate growth in our tax base, and additional state aid to education."

Excluding school construction debt payments and capital resolutions, Almond noted hat his proposed school budget means a projected expenditure of $16,015 or an increase of 4 percent for each pupil served.

Should this budget be approved, school officials will have to cut approximately $1.22 million from Supt. Georgia Fortunato's proposed budget of $52.18 million that was passed by the School Committee last month.

Noting that the new funding system enacted four years ago to resolve inequities in state education aid distribution is projected to provide nearly $6 million in additional aid to Lincoln when fully implemented over the next two years, Almond said he recommended an increase in local aid while student enrollment declines.

Over the past 10 years, Lincoln schools have gone from a high enrollment of 3,706 students to the current population of 3,182, a reduction of 14.5 percent.

"This decline is forecasted to continue over the next decade," Almond said. "However, I do believe that it is important to maintain adequate local funding to allow the School Department to implement changes required to transition to the new state funding formula, which will be based upon the number of students served when fully implemented."

Proposed capital resolutions, which do not contribute to increasing the tax levy, are listed as follows with the maximum amount the projects would be allotted:

* $1.5 million for the School Department.

* $3.3 million for the construction of a police station addition.

* $175,000 for building and renovations to Albion Park, with $175,000 matching Department of Environmental Management grant.

* $20,000 to construct compost restrooms at Chase Farm Park, with a $100,000 matching DEM grant.

* $13,500 for renovations to Chase Farm residence pending approval of a curator occupant.

* $25,000 to relocate and renovate the Hot Potato School on the Chase Farm property with a matching donation of $22,000 from the Citizens Celebration Committee.

Almond thanked town and school officials and employees for contributing to "Lincoln's excellent financial health."

"We have been fortunate to weather this recession in a fiscally strong position, but have also been able to position ourselves to maintain a long-term fiscally positive outlook," he said.

"However, it is crucial that we resist employing short-term solutions or become complacent in deliberating a responsible budget plan for the next fiscal year."

Almond called for avoiding any "unnecessary expenditures that will create repetitively increasing tax burdens" and said the town "must remain resolute and continue to identify innovative ways to economize, reallocate and reorganize to deliver the excellent municipal and educational services our residents deserve."