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What Should Be Done With Chelmsford's Free Cash?

The Selectmen will meet on Monday and one of the topics they will be discussing is the unrestricted or "free" cash in Chelmsford's municipal budget.

Currently that money is used for emergencies, reducing borrowing amounts on capital projects and to help meet unfunded obligations like the non-pension benefits given to some of the town government's retirees known as OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits)

Selectman Janet Askenburg is proposing that only half of "free cash" be used toward those ends, with the other half going back to tax payers.

If passed by the Selectmen, this would help slow the growth of property tax bills, but it could potentially harm Chelmsford's bond rating, which was upgraded due in part to its current free cash policies. 

You can see the new proposal attached here, we'll be at the meeting on Monday with more.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? 


fatty arbuckle January 24, 2014 at 12:02 PM
maybe build an ice rink in town?
John Doe January 24, 2014 at 12:43 PM
An ice rink...LOL....every dime of free cash should be paid back to taxpayers, whos property taxes go up by 2.5% every single year, despite multiple overrides for ridiculously unnecessary fire station and DPW projects...
John Doe January 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM
The only exception to this would be if there were some project that could make money for the town, thus allowing for larger long-term tax drops.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM
The town technically owns the Chelmsford Forum to my understanding (they don't operate it and most of it is located in Billerica, it's a long story, one day I will get details on the history up here.)
ron johnson January 24, 2014 at 01:29 PM
Andrew, Maybe I should know, but I will ask. how much are we talking about?
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 03:33 PM
On Sept. 30 at the Triboard Meeting, Paul Cohen said that it'd cost $4 million to construct a new one. There's a piece of special legislation enacted in 1998 (renewed from about 20 years before) that leases the Forum to the town from the state (UMass Lowell used to use it). Once the lease is done, the town has an option to buy the Forum outright (probably for less than $4 million). The impression I've gotten is the town is basically seen by the state as the defacto owner at this point since they've had that control for so long, but I may be completely wrong on that front - I've wanted to touch base with DCR and UMass Lowell on their views that for awhile, but I've never gotten the time to do it.
Iron Mike January 25, 2014 at 08:52 AM
There is NO “free cash”! Any and ALL moneys the town has was TAKEN from our taxpayers! There is NO BURNING NEED to spend it!
Anna Bucciarelli January 25, 2014 at 09:57 AM
If my memory serves, a few years back there was ice skating in an open field on Wilson Street, facing Rt. 110. Passing by it yesterday I remembered it and wonder what ever happened to such a nice idea ... was it too much to maintain? Has interest wained? Was it a totally voluntary venture, not a town thing? Answers anyone?
Jean-Luc Picard January 25, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Return 100% of excess funds to the taxpayer thru reduced property taxes. It is the taxpayers money.
Chelmsford Man January 25, 2014 at 11:26 AM
I'm sure Paul Cohen will object using any free cash for tax relief. He thinks we are all rich in Chelmsford. Did you hear him say a $1 million dollar in cuts would only save the taxpayer $70? He thinks $70 is nothing so we should keep the taxes high.
Sunny January 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM
I'm concerned with all OUIs and A/B in town so money go towards traffic lights and extra police officer at each new 40B complexes; Mill Rd. and Littleton Rd. A "canary" to let the town officials that methadone clinic is back to original location and Billerica 40B is exiting out to Chelmsford road. And heavy truck high traffic from Westford Princeton Apartments (look like 40B to me) on South Chelmsford roads. Unfortunately, Patch doesn't cover all nearby towns.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 25, 2014 at 08:43 PM
Iron Mike, the term "free cash" doesn't refer to any cost, it refers to that it's unencumbered from specific line items in the budget.
Rob C January 25, 2014 at 08:46 PM
Why does government always need to SPEND extra money? Do they not know how to put it in an account and save it or heaven forbid let the taxpayers keep a little more off the money they earn.
Iron Mike January 25, 2014 at 09:06 PM
Thank you Andrew, - I am FULLY aware what 'Free Cash' means. BUT many of your readers are NOT aware what it means – where it comes from [unspent funds], - and they think it's 'FREE MONEY' – so let's SPEND it! FREE CASH means you had a lucky year [maybe an easy winter], - and/or you over-budgeted and collected too much tax. It's a sign to look for ways to LOWER taxes.
Barbara January 25, 2014 at 09:57 PM
Lower Property Taxes? Keep dreaming because it will never happen in Chelmsford as long as Mr. Cohen is Town Manager.
Chelmsford Man January 26, 2014 at 05:42 AM
You got that right, Barbara! We need a new manager. How about someone who actually lives in Chelmsford.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 26, 2014 at 10:10 AM
Just wanted to make sure, Mike.
Rob C January 26, 2014 at 12:08 PM
I don’t think it matters who is manager. Taxes will only go up no matter who is on the board or in the managers chair. This is Massachusetts where the local government sport is to see who can take the most away from those that worked for it, because the government knows better how to spend our money than we do.
Sunny January 26, 2014 at 12:22 PM
I like Rob C. idea of saving (emergency funds) or ways to LOWER taxes (baby-boomers working non-career jobs 1/3 their previous salaries). Town Manager has too much control of town government. The bidding procedure needs to be reviewed; for example, extra funding for new fire station. People start watching Selectmen meetings.
Tara Dactyl January 26, 2014 at 03:16 PM
Since the discussion of accounting has emerged I would like to point out two new important mathematical discoveries. First, it has been found that one is approximately equal to two, for large values of one. Next, and even more convenient, the value of pi has been found to be exactly, precisely three... no decimals, for very, very small circles.
Chelmsford Man January 27, 2014 at 02:52 PM
Has everybody seen the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Paul Cohen at this rate is going to tax this town into the Stone Age. We desperately need a new manager who will not spend every dollar he can get his hands on.
Chelmsford Man January 27, 2014 at 02:56 PM
I can't wait to see Paul Cohen recommend the Town buy the Forum in the next couple of years. Maybe he can pay for it out of his salary.
Tyler Jozefowicz January 27, 2014 at 03:27 PM
It's Town Meeting ( 162 representatives elected officials) that finally approves the budget , not Town Manager , and the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, and Capital Appropriations Committee that recommends or votes not in favor. anyone id free to speak at town meeting. Town Manager has no vote and works for the selectman, if I am not mistaken. Sounds like a democratic process, instituting a democratic form of government to me, sort of like , we the people.
Chelmsford Man January 27, 2014 at 03:41 PM
But the Board and the reps always vote with the Manager.
Aron Levy January 27, 2014 at 08:05 PM
So what? Correlation does not prove causation.
Tara Dactyl January 27, 2014 at 09:08 PM
The 'free money' should be wisely distributed to end income inequality in our time.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 27, 2014 at 11:12 PM
Comments have been deleted due to violations of the terms of use.
Linda January 29, 2014 at 11:20 AM
Maybe spend the money on fixing our roads. The roads are a mess, and very dangerous. Why did they not spend the stimulus money they got from the Presidents big shovel ready projects stimulus that they received for these projects. ( DID WE ALL FORGET ABOUT THAT BIG STIMULUS THAT WE ARE ALL PAYING FOR) I seen other towns put that money to good use resurfacing roads and infrastructure that it was intended for. The transparency in this town is like what we got in the White House. It would be a breath of fresh air to see competency, and responsibility come together for the good of our town and it's hard working Taxpayer's. Voting & and doing our home work is the first step.

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