Keegan's $85M Plan Makes Few Moves, Boosts Library
The town administrator presented a $95 million budget to the Board of Selectmen Thursday evening.
Town Administrator William Keegan unveiled Thursday evening his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2013 that amounts to more than $95 million.
The operating budget for the town would eclipse $85 million under Keegan’s plan.
"Overall it is a balanced budget," Keegan said. "This is really a community on the move. There are a lot of exciting opportunities."
The town continues to work on sources to save money, including its ESCO project with Siemens to save on energy costs and health care reform with town employees.
Commercial and residential property taxes represent 80 percent of the revenues the town as state aid will remain flat for the next fiscal year. The state will provide even percent of the town’s intake.
"The reliance on property taxes is increasing as state aid remains the same," Keegan said.
Since fiscal year 2009, state aid has plummeted by more than $2 million.
The lack of new growth in Dedham in the past year and predicted for the next year leads to a higher tax burden for homeowners.
Dedham navigated the waters of the Great Recession with the construction of Legacy Place, but since then new growth has dropped as represented by building permit revenue. Permit income went from its peak in 2007 of more than $3 million down to about a half-million dollars in 2011.
"We are going to continue to be very mindful of the fact that if we don't see that growth, it could certainly have an adverse impact on how we manage our operations," Keegan said. "We are doing everything we can to minimize our expenditures."
Those measures include working toward completion of the Siemens project that aims to make the town's energy and lighting systems more efficient and reduce costs. That project should wrap up by the summer, according to Keegan.
By finishing the Siemens project and capitalizing on a health care reform law that allows towns to renegotiate health benefits, officials hope to reduce costs - but some things are well out of their hands.
Fuel continues to rise in cost and some reports have it hitting $4 a gallon by the summer, causing Keegan to increase affected budget lines.
The town also has more than $57 million in debt service to pay off, with plans to pay $9 million in fiscal year 2013.
There are a few outstanding items that could change the budget between now and mid-May when Town Meeting votes on it.
Keegan continues to work on a long-term plan for the Endicott Estate and said he expects a report in on the town-owned property next week. A year ago Keegan proposed privatizing the management of the Estate to free up an estimated half-million dollars.
The staffing of the Dedham Fire Department could change following an outside study that recommended the hiring of an assistant fire chief, a non-union position that would create a new position within the department.
The operating budget would increase by 3.7 percent over the current budget under Keegan's proposal, driven by an increase in health care costs, facilities and education.
Keegan OK'd the Parks and Recreation Department's pitch to hire an assistant director, a position cut from this year's budget after current director Bob Stanley was promoted in January 2011. The new position will oversee programs, and the department hopes to pay for the person's salary through program revenue, Keegan said.
The Dedham Public Library, under Keegan's plan, would receive full funding that would allow it to forego seeking a waiver request from the state agency that overlooks libraries. Last year, the library didn't receive enough money to buy the required number of books, and had to receive a waiver to maintain accreditation.
Not included in this budget, to the chagrin of selectman Sarah MacDonald, was a human resources position that could manage a growing staff.
"The capacity that an individual with that expertise could bring to a really strong team we've developed I think is going to be important," MacDonald said.
Keegan's plan now will face scrutiny from the Finance Committee, which will then vote on a recommendation for Town Meeting.
"It's not lost on anybody, at this table or in this room, the burden that our taxpayers face," board chairman Jim MacDonald said. "We know that people are having financial difficulties out there."