More Police Officers, Sunday Hours at Library Included in Fiscal '13 Budget
Town Manager Paul Cohen Monday night presented the fiscal 2013 budget.
Town Manager Paul Cohen Monday night presented a $107.2 million fiscal 2013 budget to the School Committee, Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen that includes restoring jobs lost during tough economic times and making almost $3 million in capital improvements.
The budget, which is slightly less than fiscal 2012's $109.5 million budget, also includes debt service for a $7.5 million center fire station which Cohen said could be done within the constraints of Proposition 2 1/2.
School Committee Vice Chairman Nick DeSilvio asked Cohen to explain the change in procedure behind building a fire station that doesn't necessarily have to go to the ballot box.
Cohen said savings from municipal health insurance reform and level-funded state aid will make the project work.
"We have debt service for a $7.5 million fire station included in the budget and we believe we can do that within Proposition 2 1/2 ... this is the major capital investment necessary in the community ... It's not about avoiding voters, it's about not going to the well when you don’t need to go to the well," Cohen said. "I'd rather explain (that) than explain why I'd be asking for a tax increase (on a Proposition 2 1/2 override at the ballot.)"
Also included in the fiscal 2013 are two police officer jobs originally lost during though economic times. The number of patrolmen will now be 35, Cohen said, which is still not up to the original 36 the town had before the economy tanked.
Two maintenance positions will also be restored, one grounds keeper and one general maintenance person, Cohen said. The main library will also be open for four hours on Sundays from October to May, Cohen said.
"(Maintenance is) an area I know (the town's) administration and I agree, it's an area underserved and we’ve been making the best we can in the past few years given the demands. But there are 28 buildings and (we have) a crew of less than a dozen," he said.
The town is also still working with the Chelmsford Housing Authority on a plan to operate the Senior Center in the new fiscal year, which will save the town money on paying employee benefits.
"We are not cutting funding for operating the senior center. (Senior Center Director Diana Ryder, who is retiring in June) put together a regular $375,000 budget ... we would save money in benefits (under the agreement) but we're not reducing the commitment," he said.
Town Finance Director John Sousa said the this year the town has seen an increase in unemployment claims, most from layoffs of the school custodians.
"We are about $300,000 over budget (in unemployment claims) through the custodian layoffs," he said. "We will have the funds to handle that budget overrun for a few reasons. There are a few savings in the health insurance lines of budget and thanks to the School Department obtaining a grant for health insurance costs, this will offset the overrun on unemployment. By the end of fiscal year, claims should be going down."
The town will allocate $47.6 million to the Chelmsford Public Schools in fiscal '13, an increase over fiscal 2012's actual $43.9 million budget.
Investments to the schools include Chelmsford High School gym and locker room renovations, Parker Middle School gym and locker renocations, and South Row School plumbing renovations. About $550,000 will be invested into technology.
"We are gaining ground as we go ahead and I believe we’ve been desperately short in number of police on street and addressing facility needs," Cohen said.
Portions of the budget presentation can be viewed by looking at the PDFs above. Cohen's full budget presentation will be put on the town's website this morning.