Monday, April 30, 2012

Reminder: weekly summary

Coming to Franklin Matters, you get your daily dose of what is happening around Franklin. If you'd like to get a weekly summary, you can subscribe to Franklin Matters Weekly. In addition to the listing of everything published the prior week, you get an essay. The Franklin Matters view on what's up and what's coming.

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This was the summary for the week ending Apr 29th:

Like gardeners, planning the layout of the growing space, setting out the stakes, tying off the supports, the Franklin budget process is very similar. The department managers assess what they have and what they need to provide services they need to deliver. They have several discussions and present the plan to the Town Administrator who either makes an adjustment or brings it forward.

The first step is the review with the Finance Committee. Over the course of several nights, the Finance Committee reviews the budget with each of the department heads, discusses their processes, their needs, their issues and ultimately makes a decision.

Their decision goes before the Town Council who holds formal budget hearings on two consecutive nights. They are currently scheduled for May 23 and 24 to review the FY 2013 budget. During these hearings, the Council has the opportunity to discuss budget details with each of the department heads. From experience, there tends to be less discussion than in the FinCom sessions.

CommGardens_20120421 007

Given the Prop 2.5 rules for MA, there are restrictions on how much revenue that the community can raise via property taxes. The established levy can only increase 2.5%. Anything above 2.5% requires a special vote. There are two kinds of votes to approve a greater than 2.5% increase.

  1. If it is for a capital item (like a new school), the vote is called a debt exclusion. The amount of increase is set for a specific number of years and then expires. 
  2. If it is for regular operational budget, like an additional DPW worker or for the salary increases due to collective bargaining agreements, then it is an operational override. The override amount in this case becomes a permanent addition to the tax base. 

Franklin has passed only one operational override (in 2007) and has passed several debt exclusions for school buildings (mostly). The most recent debt exclusion was passed in March to approve the new Franklin High School. During the time that the debt exclusion amount will be building up to its maximum amount for the new high school, debt exclusion amounts for Horace Mann, Remington/Jefferson and Keller/Sullivan will be coming off the tax levy

You can see the current amount for these debt exclusions in the FY 2013 Budget Revenue document

Franklin has automatically taken the 2.5% increase. It could choose to take part of it, or none of it. Given that it has taken all of it, we (as taxpayers) can expect a minimum of 2.5% increase each year.

All is well and good with this. It sets the planning horizon. Like the gardener, Franklin needs to live within its means. So when contract negotiations grant 2.5% increases in any given year then the automatic amount is already used up. If anything in operations would be needed, it would require a cut from somewhere else in order to balance the budget. If you only put up a two foot support, and your plant grows four feet, then what do you do?

To continue to review the links posted during the past week, visit the Franklin Matters Weekly summary here

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