The proposed 2014-15 budget that carries a 5.71 percent increase in taxes is now the responsibility of the Representative Town Meeting after the Board of Finance unanimously approved it Tuesday.
"I think we have beat this budget to death," Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao said.
The $133,093,941 proposed municipal budget includes $88,135,967 for the schools and $44,957,974 for the town. The proposed budget is a 5.89 percent increase over the 2013-14 budget of $125,691,553. The board also approved a $2,510,955 capital budget.
The proposed mill rate is 15.01, which increases by 1.84 mills from 2013-14. With the new rate, taxpayers would pay $15.01 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
The Representative Town Meeting will take action on the budget on Monday, May 5.
Board member Gwen Mogensen said she was comfortable with the budget.
"I just want to reiterate one more time that we are running out of tools as the Board of Finance to manage expenses," Mogensen said. "Increases in expenses will be borne to taxpayers, there's not much else we can do."
Board member Joe Zagrodsky touched on the work that still needed to be done in the schools.
"Let's keep in mind we're not out of the woods yet for some of the issues that we're working through," Zagrodsky said, adding that there are new school issues "lurking" that the town must face, such as updating and expanding the facilities to accommodate projected increasing enrollment.
"As a warning to everyone in town, these are likely to be non-trivial expenses and I think if we continue to approach them with the approach we're trying to take, one that's balanced but one that is looking toward the long-term and focusing on plans that are well-developed and executed over a period of time as opposed to these not well-developed plans, I think we'll be well-served by it, but it will be expensive, there's no doubt about it," Zagrodsky said.
Two building projects at Tokeneke and Royle elementary schools were put on hold in November after the estimated costs came in much higher than anticipated. The projects were originally said to come in at $4.7 million at a May Board of Selectmen meeting. However, in November, the building committee told the Board of Education that the project was actually closer to $14 million.
"It's the philosophy of this board to make true investments in this town and not build things that will fall down in 20 years or so," Mao said, noting that decades ago, the schools were built to be more suitable "for southern California but not for New England winters."
Board member Bruce Orr said there was not a single person with whom he has spoken that feels comfortable with the tax increases.
However, throughout the entire budget process, only one taxpayer came forward to publicly speak out against the budget increases.
The board also voted to approve $3,293,139 for the sewer operating fund; $550,000 for the sewer assessment fund; $203,807 for the sewer capital fund; $779,000 for the parking lot administration fund; and $231,040 for the parking lot capital fund.
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