Home CATNews Updates Positive First Look At FY' 16 Budget

Positive First Look At FY’ 16 Budget

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The following is a portion of a transcript from the Nov. 18 Westford Board of Selectmen meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

7:46 p.m. – Next on the agenda was an update on 12 North Main St. with Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti and Jane Hughes, vice chairwoman of the 12 North Main St. Task Force.

A letter was sent to abutters indicating that it’s being talked about tonight.

Six people on the task force live or work in Graniteville, the portion of town where the mills are located.

This task force will evaluate potential reuse scenarios for the 12 North Main St. property, formerly known as Westford Anodizing.

The property owner of 10 North Main St. is currently working on a redevelopment plan of his property that would likely impact 12 North Main St. Hopes are high that the task force can coordinate with the 10 North Main St. property owner.

The recommendation for what will be done for the property is expected this winter.

The task force has done a site walk, met twice a month, met with the 10 North Main St. owner, talked about zoning and done other things so far.

There are several challenges for redevelopment including site configuration and ownership of adjacent parcels, septic and water quality, safety and other issues.

John Mangiaratti on Nov. 18, 2014
John Mangiaratti on Nov. 18, 2014

If redeveloped, Westford would obtain various grants and state funding as well as tax credits for low income housing.

Although it is unlikely that nothing would be done, that was discussed by the task force. Other options included

  • Doing the bare minimum to make the building safe
  • Selling the lien on the property posed by the town and let the private market redevelop the property.
  • Take ownership of the site through foreclosure and use it for either government use or put out requests for ideas on the property, that may include 10 North Main St.

Mangiaratti hopes for more public input as various deadlines loom.

Selectman Don Siriani appreciated the openness of the committee and said that Graniteville residents were concerned about the condition of the building and how hazardous it is to the public in terms of immediate safety concerns and toxins.

He praised a new fence that has gone up around the property.

For many generations, the property was known as an industrial area and he asked if the bridge next to the property is physically connected to where the adjacent mill pond drops nearby.

Siriani reiterated a need that 10 North Main will have to be taken into account and that he has heard the neighbors have appreciated the work done so far.

Chris Franklin, the owner of the Sergeant’s Mill on the other side of the brook said that remediation would cost less than tearing down the site, with an eye on light industrial.

There isn’t a lot of room in Westford for incubators outside of expensive places on Route 110.

Franklin invited the board to tour his mill and said there aren’t a lot of vacancies at his site.

Nancy Bissel of 11 North Main St. and the task force said she has learned a lot over the past month and she’d love to see some preservation, although she knows it’s an enormous feat.

She remembers the mill as a beautiful building and would like to get it back.

Hughes has said there has been a lot of support and lively discussions. However, the consensus among neighbors is that they’d like to save the mill.

Bill Taffel from Cold Spring Road asked if there is any contamination at the site.

Mangiaratti said that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has found serious contamination near an incinerator.

Other contaminations have also been found around the site. No costs have been determined yet.

Mangiaratti said the task force won’t return until they have a recommendation and asked if the Selectmen have any input. Otherwise, they’d keep on going.

They had no input.

7:50 p.m. – Next on the agenda was a budget presentation for FY’16 from Town Manager Jodi Ross and Finance Director Dan O’Donnell.

Jodi Ross said that there was good news this year after a few lean years and the process has improved.

Each department has a mission statement and goal and that’s available on the town website.

Recommended reserves are maintained, the School Department budget is getting a 4.45 percent increase, which is what they requested. Other town departments will get a 3.13 percent increase.

Health insurance costs are only $10,000 than last fiscal year and $4.2 million in capital projects are projected.

There’s an increase in Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) to $712,425 from $500,000 in FY’ 15.

Perchlorate remediation funding is now at $220,000, but there is a hope it will be lower than this.

Wastewater collection for the schools will no longer be done by the School Department.

Two new employees to be shared by the Recreation Department and the Highway Department are expected, with a cost of $94,153. They’ll likely do a lot of plowing.

The East Boston Camps line item has been transferred to the Recreation Department from the Conservation Department.

There will also be a non-union Deputy Fire Chief position that will replace an existing firefighter/EMT position, which will add an extra $40,000.

The Police Department overtime budget has been increased by $36,332 and there’s an additional $25,00 for preventative town facility maintenance.

More hours are needed for an assessor’s assistant, a stipend will be given to the assistant planner and the Highway Garage will be renovated.

In terms of health insurance, 59 percent of employees are on the town’s plan and the town is working with Blue Cross/Blue Shield to work on costs.

Liability for OPEB will decrease this year and there’s a new policy for new employees. The Water Department has fully funded its employees. Current OPEB reserves are around $1.4 million.

Approximately $21 million is needed to repair 28 town-owned building around town. $400,000 will be needed to begin addressing needs of the buildings.

Over the next five years, $58 million is expected in capital expenditures.

7:54 p.m. – Four of the six town’s collective bargaining agreements have been settled, and the schools have settled with teachers, nurses, teacher assistants and custodians.

Local sales tax projections are over projections by just under $1 million and there’s $1.8 million in new property value growth. That was a record, but is unlikely to increase further.

There’s also a $153,431 increase in state aid.

Cash reserves are just over $8.5 million and the FY’ 15 budget and was balanced with just under $150,000 of free cash, the closest to a balanced budget since 2000.

Projected property tax revenue is approximately just under $70.5 million and the total amount of revenues is expected at just over $111 million.

Among the $111 million, public schools will take up approximately $53.6 million.

Variables in the budget include infrastructure and facility requests, health insurance changes, state aid, energy costs, snow and ice removal as well as a variety of other things.

Jodi Ross estimated $1.2 million in free cash and there’s the Finance Committee will begin to talk about the budget this year.

Selectman Kelly Ross praised Jodi Ross due to her hard work and the difference between this year and difficult recent years.

Jodi Ross praised the department heads and was happy to help them now that things are slightly better budgetwise.

Selectman Don Siriani wished that local aid figures could be more stable and a larger piece of the budget, but it’s a significant part of the budget.

Siriani says all lawmakers say it’s a significant part of the budget and the process will be unique for him as this is his first time in the process. However, the level of detail he says will help anyone interested in finding out more about the town budget.

There were no questions from the audience.

Selectman Scott Hazelton appreciated all of the work done and found it impressive.