Published in the October 17, 2018 edition


WAKEFIELD — “Fiscal Year 2018 was a very strong year for the town,” Stephen P. Maio told the Town Council this week. The Town Administrator presented his financial recap of the previous fiscal year at Monday’s meeting. FY 2018 ended on June 30, 2018.

Maio noted that the town started FY 2018 with a state-certified Free Cash balance of $9,621,013. The November 2017 Town Meeting used $2,220,000 to balance the budget, Maio noted. Another $140,000 of Free Cash was used for Fire Department union contract, and the May 2018 Annual Town Meeting authorized an additional $165,000 to supplement the Fire Department budget. A total of $2,525,000 was spent from Free Cash in FY 2018, Maio noted.

He said that he had conservatively estimated the year-end balance in the Free Cash account would be about $8 million, assuming all receipts came in as anticipated and all department budgets were spent in full.

But at the end of FY 2018, Maio noted, town departments returned $1,670,813 to the town. That money goes into the Free Cash account. In addition, the town took in $1,200,000 more in receipts than was forecast. That money also goes into Free Cash, Maio noted. That meant that the town actually ended FY 2018 with about $10.4 million in Free Cash.

The town also has about $3 million in the Stabilization Account, which Maio said is over the 3 percent of the total town budget as recommended in the Financial Policy established by the Board of Selectmen/Town Council a number of years ago.

The upcoming November Town Meeting will seek to fund a number of items from the $10,373,208 currently in free cash, Maio noted, starting with $3 million that will be requested to balance the FY 2019 budget.

Another $30,000 will be requested to fund the clerical workers’ union contract and $100,000 will be sought for the DPW union contract.

Funding for streetscape upgrades will be requested in the amount of $331,000, and $200,000 will be sought for alterations and improvements to the backstop and netting at Walsh Field.

Another $110,000 will be requested for a comprehensive topographical mapping of the town. Town Meeting will also be asked to place $500,000 from Free cash into the School Departments Special Education Stabilization Fund, which is used as a hedge against unforeseen SPED costs.

This will still leave the town with $6.1 million in Free Cash, which is in keeping with the town’s Financial Policy. By the end of FY 2019, Maio anticipated that the amount in Free Cash will be back up to about $8 million.

Maio pointed out that a lot of neighboring towns are doing overrides to fund their operating budgets, adding that those towns don’t even have the level of services that Wakefield offers. He noted that Wakefield has meanwhile been steadily increasing spending on capital projects, has targeted more money for roads and sidewalks, added all-day kindergarten and added a Fire Prevention Officer, all while staying within the limits of Proposition 2 1/2.

He added that over the last several years the town has not increased the tax levy up to the full 2.5 percent allowed by law, leaving some $2.5 million in the pockets of taxpayers over the last six years.

Keeping reserves at a healthy level, Maio noted, has been a big factor in achieving and maintaining the town’s AAA bond rating, which in turn helps the town to secure low rates for future borrowing.

Maio credited the Town Council, the Finance Committee, the School Committee, town department heads and employees for their contributions toward the the towns excellent financial heath.