The town's budget now stands are nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. At last night's Board of Selectmen meeting, Brookline officials presented the budget overview for the 2013 fiscal year, which balances at $248.3 million. Overall, an increase of 5.9 percent--although this includes the $3.25 million sale of town property at Fisher Hill.
See PDF at right for full budget.
The full budget overview is also available on the town website, here are some highlights from Town Administrator Mel Kleckner's, and Deputy Town Administrator Sean Cronin's presentation last night.
$2 Million More for Schools
State Aid for the schools, under Chapter 70, increased by $2 million from the previous estimates, which will go a long way to closing the "very difficult" school budget gap presented to the school committee at the end of last year.
"When we saw the numbers we thought it was a mistake," Cronin added.
He explained that, because of ever-increasing school enrollment figures, the formula that determines school funding designates Brookline as a "Foundation Aid" community. He also noted that the state legislature appropriated more money and changed to an aggregated growth formula.
Between the unexpected cash influx from the state, and healthcare premiums costing less than anticipated, officials say that the anticipated gaps in the budget have been closed.
In the last year, Kleckner took on consultants from UMass Boston's Collins Center to examine the town's Planning and Community Development Department. Kleckner reported two driving forces behind this: a debate over the merits of staff for the commercial areas, and a decrease in community development block grant (CDGB) funding.
The Collins Center's recommendations suggested eliminating an administrative position and sharing the duties with other staff. They also recommended replacing the Commercial Areas Coordinator position with a lesser position that reports to the Director and the economic development advisory board (EDAB).
The Department of Public Works (DPW) also re-examined their structure, and made some changes. One significant change Kleckner highlighted was that the town currently sweeps streets every ten days, where 14 days would do. This change allows the town to eliminate one full-time position.
The DPW will also create a Forestry Craftsman position, which replaces a Gardener/Laborer position in the Parks and Open Space division. This is expected to save the town money previously spent on contracted tree services.
In addition to the buget for FY2013, the overview also included a long-range view that extends to FY2017.
Kleckner observed that the defecits in this plan are overstated, and do not account for the annual balancing of the budget, but that it is useful to look at what he calls the "structural gap" inherent in running the town.
This forecast takes into account conditions like inflation, wage increases, and property taxes. It also assumes that state funding remains roughly the same next year, and increases 2.5% from FY2015-207., Over the course of the next four years with these estimated variables the budget gap will increase from $3.1 million to $8.1 million.
This allows the town to foresee what they may have to reconcile in the coming years. He added, "Our goal is to eliminate that gap in a way that balances revenue with growth and expenditure control."
New Parking Meters
As reported earlier today, Town Administrator Mel Kleckner plans to put $100,000 into reexamining the Brookline parking meter system. He currently plans to switch the multi-space parking meters in parking lots to a pay-by-space system, and replace on-street parking with individual smart meters. One vendor has agreed to allow the town to try their smart meters for a spring trial period.
Green Community, Green Lights
The town plans to put its Green Community status to good use, and will take some grant money to install more LEDs in streetlights around town. The benefits of these street lamps, as mentioned in the budget presentation, is greater visibility, more energy efficiency, and reduced maintenance costs. Last year, stimulus money was put toward 60 LED streetlights in South Brookline, the plan is looking to install more this year.
Another reported change in utlity costs comes from a lower contract for natural gas, which goes into effect in October.