Published in the December 15, 2015 edition

WAKEFIELD — Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio provided the first peek at the town’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year last night as be presented his annual budget preview to the Board of Selectmen. FY 2017 will begin on July 1, 2016.
Calling Wakefield “a financial success story,” Maio credited the selectmen for much of that success.
Starting with the current financial position, Maio said that the town currently has about $19 million in reserves. Broken down by account, he said there was about $3 million in the Stabilization Fund, $6.6 million in Free Cash, $300,000 in the Reserve Fund, $1.3 Million in the Water/Sewer Reserve Fund and $8 million in the OPEB account. (OPEB stands for “other post-employment benefits” and consists of health insurance costs for retired town employees. By paying a sum of money into this account every year, the town is reducing its future unfunded liability in this area.)
Maio talked about the budget priorities under the selectmen’s purview, including public safety, roads and sidewalks, drainage, capital improvements, business development, town employee contracts and recreation activities.
Again this year, Maio said he would request $2 million for capital improvements. He noted that most town employee union contracts were settled last year.
Maio said that the amounts in the Stabilization Fund and the Free Cash account both exceed the amounts established in the reserves policy that the board adopted several years ago.
Turning to revenues for next year, Maio said that most of the numbers were uncertain but constituted his best projections. The one number that is certain, he said, is the tax levy which he calculated to be $64,118,506.
Maio anticipates a small increase next year in the amount of state aid that the town will receive, putting that number at $9.3 million. He expects School Building Authority funds to come in at $927,551. He estimated local receipts (excise tax, hotel tax, local meals tax, etc.) at $6 million.
He said that he would be seeing an increase in the Municipal Gas & Light Department’s payment to the town in lieu of taxes, to $1,050,000.
Maio said he plans to use $1,182,000 in Free Cash to balance next year’s budget and reminded the board that this infusion of money was part of a plan to boost the School Department budget.
He projected new growth at a conservative $750,000, noting that in recent years it has been exceeding $1 million annually.
Maio estimated total revenues at $83,328,507.
Turning to expenses, he anticipated departmental operating budgets at $55,200,000 for FY 2017, about a 3 percent increase over the current year. He placed fixed costs at about $19 million, capital expenditures at $2 million, Town Meeting articles (trash removal, etc.) at $2 million and debt service at $2,833,000. He will recommend adding $100,000 to the Stabilization Fund.
Maio projected a $600,000 appropriation for the Overlay Account (used to pay tax abatements), $1,650,000 in state and county assessments (MBTA, charter schools, etc.) and $35,000 in Cherry Sheet offsets. Maio did not venture a guess as to snow and ice overdrafts but noted that the figure for last winter was about $1.2 million.
Total expenses based on Maio’s early projections totaled $83,418,000. That leaves a deficit of about $90,000, which he said at this early stage of the budget process was not a concern.
Maio listed the major areas of budget uncertainty as state aid, health insurance, school priorities, local receipts and snow and ice removal.
Maio said that he felt pretty good about the FY 2017 budget at this early stage of the process.
“I think we’re in a good place right now,” he said.