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A look at final $161M town budget plan for next year

Manager explains schools' share, notes first use of override fund after 2011

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UPDATED, March 31: Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine released to the public by Jan. 31 the town's fiscal 2019 preliminary budget -- totaling $161,013,030, an increase of $6,076,495 (3.9 percent) from the current spending plan -- and YourArlington published highlights that day.

On Monday, Feb. 5, the manager presented the proposed plan to selectmen. Read it here >>

Here is the link to the final budget plan, to be approved by Town Meeting >>

Among comments from the board, Dan Dunn looked ahead to next year. He asked members to begin discussing publicly having the operating override for the town and debt exclusion for Arlington High School at the same time, expected to be in spring 2019. The amounts in each case are not yet known.

Drilling down into the fiscal 2019 budget, the manager noted for the shorter term:

• A "near historic increase in educational funding" (detailed below);

• Continued investment in senior services with further increase in Council on Aging social-worker hours;

• Investment in response to climate change, with mosquito- and rodent-control funding, as well as a significant increase in tree-planting funding and hours for the tree warden;

• A full-time transportation planner, to better position the town to respond to short- and long-term transportation matters;

• An increase in library staffing to better serve patrons; and

• Funding set aside for collective bargaining. 

History, school-budget connection

Preceding the numbers, the manager's message makes the following main points, which provide financial history and help explain how town finances affect the school budget:

-- Fiscal 2019, which begins July 1, is the first year, following the override passed in 2011 in which a withdrawal from the Override Stabilization Fund is proposed -- $3,461,695 (for a summary comparing fiscal 2018 and '19 revenues and expenditures, see page 5 of this document >> 

-- The override period has been extended to nine years, from the original three-year period, based to a large degree on health-care savings. For planning purposes, health-care premiums are projected to grow at 5.25 percent, "which more accurately reflects the historical average annual growth of Group Insurance Commission premiums," the statement says.

-- In view of increased operating costs required to open a renovated Gibbs School by next September, the town has has added $1.3 million to the school budget. The details of this formula and its budgetary impact are described below.

-- School enrollment continues to grow, so the town budget has had to adapt: A school-funding increase above 3.5 percent has been proposed. A funding formula, referred to as "growth factor," was first instituted in fiscal 2015 and continues under a formula that increases the amount, the statement says.

The following chart shows how the town reached its school appropriation, which the School Committee discussed Jan. 25. Read about that here >> 

town budget chart

8.09% increase for schools

This budget recommendation provides an 8.09-percent funding increase for public school, "in an environment where property-tax revenues are capped at an increase of 2.5 percent," the statement notes.

In issuing the budget message, the manager takes a first step in the annual budget process, which concludes at Town Meeting this spring.

"As the budget process evolves and additional information becomes available over the next few months," Chapdelaine cautions, "the estimates and recommendations contained herein will be adjusted as required. Further detail will be made available in March via the Town Manager's Annual Budget and Financial Plan and in April with the issuance of the Finance Committee's Report to Town Meeting."

In concluding, the manager writes: "... it is also important to call attention to the shifting governmental landscape at the state and federal level. We are less able to rely on other levels of government to either provide or assist the town in providing the level and quality of services that Arlington residents have come to expect.

"This means that the town will need to increasingly rely on its own resources to provide services, or consider altering the level of services provided. This consideration will influence how the town plans both now and into the future."

The plan reflects the town's fiscal 2019 operating and capital budgets as well as the fiscal 2019 through 2023 capital plan. The authors listed are Chapdelaine; Sandy Pooler, deputy town manager; and Amy Fidalgo, management analyst. 

Town budget process

• July: Fiscal Year begins July 1

• September: Capital-budget requests due to town manager

• November: Operating-budget requests due to town manager

• January: Budget books to Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee by Jan. 15

• January/April: Finance Committee hearings on budget

• March: Financial Plan to selectmen and Finance Committee by the end of March

• April: Finance Committee report submitted to Town Meeting by April 20

• May: Town Meeting adopts operating and capital budgets

• June: Fiscal year ends June 30

The board voted to receive report, 5-0.

This news summary was published Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, and updated March 31.

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