It’s Time To Carefully Expand Bourne's Budget, Tom Guerino Says
By: Diana T. Barth
If Bourne adopts the numbers recommended by Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino, the town will cautiously begin increasing the bottom line of its general budget for the upcoming fiscal year, adding money for some long-awaited staff positions.
Mr. Guerino is recommending the addition of a facilities manager and an accountant. He is also proposing to add funding for an assistant fire chief, a post recommended several years ago in a fire department staffing study.
More help for the Jonathan Bourne Public Library, and a shared administrative support person for the Bourne Human Resources Department and the Bourne Recreation Department, both located in the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center, are also proposed.
Mr. Guerino told assembled selectmen and finance committee members at a joint meeting held Monday that in the past Bourne has budgeted based on “dire” reports of diminished state aid. It built up financial reserves with barebones budgets created in anticipation of lower income.
Departments have had to do more with less, he said, and the town has not been able to invest in new people and programs.
Departments have been cut as far back as they can be, Mr. Guerino said in recommending a $51.8 million general budget for FY 2013, some $20.6 million of which is earmarked for the school budget. Those numbers do not include the landfill and sewer enterprise funds.
That general budget is up about 3 percent over this fiscal year’s numbers, in general, with some departments needing a higher level of funding and some less. The school department’s currently proposed budget is up 2.74 percent over this year.
The proposed budget changes, Mr. Guerino said, are possible because Bourne’s conservative budgeting has allowed the town to exceed its own policies for reserves. Even if it spends a recommended $990,000 in reserves for FY 2013, the town will still be in solid fiscal shape.
Bourne has about $5.1 million in free cash, $3.6 million in stabilization reserves, and $451,000 in a capital stabilization fund.
That puts Bourne in an “enviable” position going forward, he said.
After the layoffs and shifting of personnel that occurred at the start of this fiscal year, when state aid projections were low, Mr. Guerino said that the additional state aid, supplemental funds for educating the children on base secured by state Senate President Therese Murray, and year-end turn backs resulting in higher free cash numbers changed that picture.
The town, he said, is able to restore some program funding to its departments. The proposed budget, he said, takes into account the cost of assuming more ultimate town responsibility for funding Bourne Council on Aging personnel now directly hired by the Friends of the COA.
Asked by FinCom member Glenn Galusha whether the increased budget, with its added personnel, would be sustainable in years to come, Mr. Guerino assured him that it would.
He said no one wants the town to ever return to the financial position it was in during 2005 and 2006.
He suggested that the town can be frugal and still provide the appropriate services needed in the foreseeable future.
While the administrator expects payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land to decrease, and municipalities to have to pay more to the state for services, general aid to towns is expected to remain level-funded.
New growth estimates are going up by $50,000 and Chapter 70 aid to schools is expected to rise.
Mr. Guerino said he is not recommending—and the town does not need—a general override. He is, however, recommending a debt exclusion for the construction of a new DPW garage. That question will hopefully be coming before voters at the May Town Meeting, he said. At the latest, he said, it would be an issue at the Fall Town Meeting.
That new construction is necessary to create a healthier and safer workplace, as well as to move the operation away from the landfill, making way for improvements to that site.
The Department of Solid Waste Management, which runs the landfill, has “substantially” turned the corner with regard to both the financial slowdown and the odor problems, he reported. Mr. Guerino commended the town Landfill Futures Working Group for its efforts toward finding future sources of revenue for the landfill site.
He noted that the town is continuing to reduce its reliance on the landfill for general operating costs, and will be using excess host community funding for capital projects.
Much of the Bourne Sewer Department costs are dependent on the costs assessed by the Town of Wareham in association with its treatment plant. Mr. Guerino noted, however, that Bourne pumps, piping, and other infrastructure heading into that plant is aging and will need attention going forward.
The town, which is self-insured, continues to “outpace” neighboring communities in containing health care and related insurance costs, he said. It has made changes, however, that reflect “21st Century realities.” Out-of-pocket expenses and employee deductibles will rise, Mr. Guerino said.
Mr. Guerino gave credit to Finance Director Linda A. Marzelli, whom he described as “the best in the state” for her expertise in creating the proposed budget and Karen Girouard, town treasurer, for her help with insurance and other programs.
He also had a “special note of professional thanks” for School Superintendent Steven A. Lamarche for his assistance during the present fiscal year, saying, “He has done a tremendous job in managing the Bourne schools.”
Mr. Guerino ended his budget message by saying he looked forward to reviewing his proposals with the board of selectmen, who next meet on Tuesday at 7 PM in the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center.
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