Almond proposes increase in Lincoln budget

Almond proposes increase in Lincoln budget

LINCOLN – Town Administrator Joseph Almond says his proposed 2022 budget, now in the hands of the Budget Board, strikes a necessary balance between supporting Lincoln’s municipal and education services and remaining mindful of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Further, Almond said the recommended budget “represents an awareness of not just the revenue loss of the past 12 months, but also of the anticipated fiscal challenges facing the state and local governments well into the next fiscal year.”

Though the town has taken precautions to safeguard against shortfalls in gaming revenue, the pandemic had a “dramatic impact” on funds gained from Twin River Casino over the last year.

“We fell significantly short of $5.2 million projected in our 2020 operating budget that ended June 30, 2020, and we estimate even greater losses in the 2021 operating budget ending June 30,” Almond said.

Almond noted that the town’s debt service will increase by more than $2 million annually due to the $60 million Lincoln High School construction bond.

New debt service payments represent a 3.7 percent increase above the fiscal 2020 tax levy.

“Because of responsible securing of retired debt payments over the past decade, with support of the Budget Board, we are able to transfer $1.2 million from municipal operating capital, reducing the impact of new bond debt to 1.5 percent of the tax levy,” Almond said.

He has recommended a total 2022 budget of $91,077,576, which includes an $83 million operating budget, debt service of $7.4 million, and capital resolutions totaling $650,000.

His recommended municipal operating budget is roughly $23 million, representing an increase of $617,061, or 2.8 percent.

His proposal represents a 3.22 percent increase in the fiscal year 2021 tax levy, excluding estimates of new residential and commercial levy growth of approximately $540,000.

The proposed 2.8 percent municipal budget increase includes the payout of certain pension benefits and the purchase of full property re-evaluation services, which cost $380,250.

Almond said the Police Department requires upgraded technology to replace vehicle Mobile Data Terminals, as well as PCs and monitors in the police dispatch center.

The corresponding $90,000 capital resolution and IT line items in the operating budget would address these issues, he said.

The proposed budget also asks for funding to move forward with the proposed purchase and maintenance of LED streetlights. Lincoln recently solicited bids with neighboring communities to convert the town’s streetlights to LED.

On the school side, he recommended an operating budget of $59,986,766, an increase of 3.8 percent, with the town appropriating $400,000 and the state projected to appropriate more than $16 million.

“Because of federal COVID relief programs providing stimulus revenue aid to education, I anticipate that the Budget Board may need to adjust the town’s recommended local appropriation to schools in accordance with the allocation of these revenues,” Almond said.

He noted that per-pupil funding in Lincoln is approximately $19,000, not accounting for designated federal relief funds.

The allocation of potential federal funds was unknown when he prepared his budget recommendation, but Almond also pointed to the schools’ $400,000 surplus carried over from fiscal year 2020.

The projection of any surplus for June 30, 2021, was also unknown when Almond submitted his recommendation.

Almond said the moderate growth officials are projecting in residential and commercial construction will lessen any resulting tax impact from his proposed spending increase.