By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Municipal budget season officially kicked off this week as the Board of Selectmen reviewed and approved 16 smaller departmental budgets for Fiscal Year 2016, which begins July, 1, 2015. This first batch of budgets included mainly Town Hall-based departments. All budgets are also reviewed by the Finance Committee before going before the voters at Annual Town Meeting in May.
Town Accountant Kevin Gill presented each budget, beginning with the Town Treasurer’s department. Gill said that the Treasurer’s budget was being increased by $8,678 over FY 2015, mainly due to negotiated salary increases. The selectmen approved the total budget of $184,341.
The board approved the $171,614 Legal Department budget. Gill explained that a $2,937 increase in this budget was entirely in personal services due to negotiated salary increases. Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and board chairman Brian Falvey both observed that if the town had to pay an outside firm for legal services, the cost would easily be triple what they pay Town Counsel Thomas Mullen and they would not get the quality legal advice that they get from Mullen.
Gill said that the Tax Collector’s budget was increased by $3,581 to a total of $230,935. He said that major expenses for this department include printing and binding as well as postage for mailing out tax bills. The selectmen approved the budget.
The Town Clerk’s budget was increased by $20,954, Gill said. He attributed the increase to negotiated salary increases plus the need to pay a temporary Town Clerk to fill in during the absence of the Town Clerk. The board approved the Town Clerk’s budget at $206,621.
The selectmen approved the Election and Registration budget at $37,000, an increase of $675 over the previous year.
Gill said that the $11,681 decrease in the Election Expense budget was due to one less election next year than last year. The board OK’d the $32,666 budget.
The selectmen approved the $7,060 Finance Committee budget, which was reduced by $2,800 due to the elimination of a paid clerk’s position.
Gill said that a $203 increase in the $40,841 Conservation Commission budget was entirely in personal services. The selectmen voted to OK the budget.
The selectmen approved a $7,900 increase in the Board of Appeals budget to $21,200. Gill said that the increase was due to a change in the way that the board’s clerk is paid.
The board voted to accept a $2,620 increase in the $55,120 Fire Alarm and Traffic Signal budget. Selectman Betsy Sheeran abstained from the vote.
The Building Department budget was approved at $241,923, including a $14,899 increase that Gill said was mainly in personal services. Maio noted that the revenue brought in by the Building Department far exceeds expenses.
Gill said that the $6,000 Sealer of Weights and Measures budget was decreased by $1,193 due to a retirement and subsequent contracting with the state to perform that function. The board approved the budget.
The selectmen voted in favor of the $208,629 Council on Aging budget, an increase of $2,114.
The level-funded “Miscellaneous Selectmen” budget was approved at $19,125.
The Unemployment budget was approved at a level-funded $75,000. The budget is split, with $25,000 charged to the town’s budget and $50,000 to the School Department’s budget. Sheeran abstained from voting on this budget.
The board approved a level-funded $300,000 for the Reserve Fund.
In other business this week, the Board of Selectmen:
Authorized the execution of an Estoppel Certificate related to properties on Quannapowitt Parkway.
Approved a request from the Dolbeare School staff to donate books to the school library in memory of their colleague, Jeanne Hudd and to pursue fundraising for a memorial granite bench to be installed on the school premises.
Approved a request from Town Treasurer John J. McCarthy Jr. to transfer $173,012.50 from the town’s Capital Projects account to the General Fund for the payment of bonds.
Approved a request from Library Director Sharon Gilley to accept and expend $3,335 in gifts from various donors.