Published in the October 17, 2016 edition.


WAKEFIELD – The town’s finances are in such good shape that the Board of Selectmen is considering giving the taxpayers a break by only going up 2 percent on the FY 2017 property tax rate, instead of the  allowable 2 1/2 percent.

Town Administrator Stephen  P. Maio last week presented to the selectmen his year-end  report for FY 2016, which ended last June 30.

Maio noted that the town started FY 2016 with a state certified Free Cash balance of $9.6 million. In November 2015, Town Meeting voted to use $2,965,874 of that to balance the budget. Including other projects funded out of Free Cash, the town spent $3,417,554 from this fund in  FY 2016, Maio said.

“Free Cash” in municipal budgeting is defined as excess revenues accumulated from higher than expected revenues and/or lower than anticipated expenditures.

If all had gone exactly as expected budget-wise, Maio said the town would have still had an estimated FY 2016 Free cash balance of $6,200,000. But because of unspent money returned from town budgets and because revenue came in higher than expected, the town was able to replenish its Free Cash ended FY 2016 with $9.1 million in that account.

Maio said that town departments returned a combined total of $789,849 in FY 2016. In addition, revenues came in $1,747,019 higher than had been forecasted, including revenue from the motor vehicle excise tax, the local option meals tax and revenue from licenses and permits.

Maio said that the state certified $9.1 Free Cash balance is “very healthy for a community our size.”

At next month’s Regular Town Meeting, Maio anticipates using $1.3 million of that Free Cash to balance the budget. If that and other articles involving Free Cash expenditures are approved at Town Meeting, it would leave $7.6 million in Free Cash, which Maio called “very healthy.”

Selectman Phyllis Hull suggested using some for the town’s Free Cash balance “to give a break to the taxpayers.”

Hull proposed instead of going up 2 1/2 percent as allowed by law, the town increase the property tax rate by 2 percent when the board sets the new tax rate next month. Hull said that such a break “would not only be good for the homeowners, it would be good for the businesses.” Hull noted that the town did something similar in 2011 and urged the board to consider doing it again.

Maio said that he would have Director of Assessments Victor Santaniello present various scenarios when he comes before the board on Oct. 24 for the annual Tax Classification Hearing. Maio said that he would ask Santaniello to work out what Hull’s proposal would mean for the average homeowner, the average business and how it would impact Free Cash.

Maio said that it was his belief that the town could afford to give the taxpayers a break and still maintain very healthy balances in its reserves.

Selectmen Paul DiNocco, Ann Santos and Chairman Patrick Glynn all voiced support for Hull’s proposal.

The vote on the tax rate will come during the Oct. 24 Tax Classification hearing.


In other business last week, the Board of Selectmen:

• Approved the transfer of $1 million to the Debt Service Capital Needs Account.

• Voted to recommend to Town Meeting the acceptance of two new streets as public ways: Nazareth Road and Winship Drive.

• Approved a request from Town Treasurer John J. McCarthy Jr. to transfer $2,355,439.88 from the town’s capital projects account to the town’s general fund to make bond payments.

• Appointed Robert McRobbie of 41A Gould St. and Caroline Lieber of 1 Elm St. to the Wakefield Cultural Council.

• Renewed the town’s contract with Action Ambulance through Nov. 28, 2019.

• Accepted the Regular Town Meeting warrant.

• Accepted the 2016 State Election warrant.