By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Although Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio predicts that fiscal Year 2016 will be “a challenging year,” he also sees the town in “pretty solid shape,” with reserves that place Wakefield in the top 2 to 3 percent in the state in that regard.
In a sure sign that the municipal budget season is upon us, Maio delivered his annual fiscal forecast at last night’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
He explained that the year could be a challenging one for municipalities due to uncertainties surrounding state and federal aid, with no specific numbers available at this point. But, Maio took some assurance from the fact that the new governor comes from a background as a municipal official.
“Charlie Baker believes in local aid,” Maio said.
The town is “in very good shape,” Maio observed, in terms of its reserve funds. There is $3 million in the Stabilization Fund, $7.4 Million in Free Cash, $2 Million in Water Division reserves, $1.7 million in Sewer reserves, $641,000 in the Overlay Account, $263,500 in the Reserve Fund and $6 Million in the OPEB (other Post-Employment Benefits) account.
Maio listed the budget priorities for the coming fiscal year as public safety, roads and sidewalks, drainage, building maintenance, business development, town employee contracts and recreation activities. He pointed out that all municipal employee contracts are up this year and he hopes to be able to bring them all to Annual Town Meeting in May for approval.
In terms of revenues, Maio anticipates raising $61,513,174 from tax levy. He projected state aid coming in at a level $8,814,076. Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will come in at $927,551, Maio said. Local receipts (mainly excise tax) are expected to come in at $6 million and the Municipal Gas & Light Department’s “in lieu of taxes” payment figures to be about $850,000. Maio is looking at Available Funds of $182,000 and New Growth of $700,000.
Added up, Maio projects total FY 2016 revenues at $78,986,801.
Moving on to expenses, Maio figured departmental operating budgets at $51,200,000. Fixed costs project to $18,613,594. Capital expenditures are budgeted at $2 million. Town Meeting articles (trash collection, etc.) are anticipated at $1,964,881.
Maio expects Debt Service to be budgeted at $2,872,000. He sees another $250,000 going into the Stabilization Fund. He projects $641,472 going into the Overlay Account. A total of $1,425,100 will go toward state and county assessments (MBTA, etc.). The amount of a possible Snow and Ice Overdrafts, Maio said, is unknown with two months of winter left.
Totaled, expenses come to $79,011,774, Maio said. That places the town about $25,000 in the red, but Maio said that at this early point in the budget process, he was not concerned.
Board Chairman Brian Falvey congratulated Maio, observing that in a $79 million budget, a $25,000 deficit is essentially a balanced budget.
Maio said that he and Town accountant Kevin Gill each approach the town budget from different directions. When their numbers pretty much agree, Maio said, they know they are on target.
When it comes to the FY 2016 budget, Maio said, “Kevin and I are pretty comfortable.”