The State of the Town 2009 was summed up as good…but.
In remarks to the Chamber of Commerce April 30, budget cuts dominated the discussion over the Holiday Inn breakfast.
Selectman Chair Nancy Daly and Town Administrator Richard Kelliher said state cuts combined with a drop in local receipts had forced the town to make more than $5 million in cuts in both operating and capital budgets.
Growth in town revenue is usually based on the property tax, Kelliher said, with state aid and local fees filling in the balance. But all are going south, he said. Even interest income for town funds is down by at least $150,000 a month.
He admitted that he had signed a letter commending the House for passing an increase in the sales tax.
“I’m not particularly fond of the sales tax, but we need the revenue,” said Kelliher of the state legislature’s recent vote.
Decreases in Town revenues:
- $2.5 million in state aid for fiscal year 2010 (starts in July
- Plus $850,000 in the state legislature’s May 1 budget.
- Total cut $5 million (rising expenses, such as health insurance)
Planned cuts to the Town budget:
- Vacant positions
- Deferring capital expenses
- New growth (property tax base)
- Building permit fees
- Excise taxes
- Interest income
- Fisher Hill affordable/luxury housing and public park moving forward
- St. Aidan’s luxury/affordable units on sale
- Newly renovated Town Hall opened
Schools also squeezed:
On the school side, budget decisions have been painful, said Superintendent Bill Lupini, meaning that he has had to issue 18-22 pink slips.
On the bright side, Lupini said that the longer school day and foreign language in the elementary grades have been tremendously successful. Both were possible because of the 2008 override.
Brookline schools lost money because of state cuts to:
- Special ed for the most expensive students
One-time federal stimulus funds of $1.1 million for special education cannot make up for lost state funds, said Lupini. Federal dollars are instead going to make programs more efficient, anticipating future needs.
Other pressures on the school budget:
- Increasing K-5 enrollment
- Enrollment in the upper grades of previously privately educated children.
School Committee Chair Henry Warren outlined the results of the schools’ strategic plan and the facilities’ master plan, which anticipates building repair and the demands of increasing enrollment. The plan estimated that Brookline will need to spend about $145 million in the next 20 years just on school buildings and playgrounds.
The strategic plan, on which budget decisions are based, includes the following core values:
- high achievement
- excellence in teaching
- respect for human differences
- educational equity