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At last night’s Board of Selectmen‘s meeting, first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice gave an early glimpse at budget numbers for Fiscal Year 2020. While the budget-building work hasn’t yet begun in earnest, she said she wanted to let her fellow board members know some of the financial figures now. In all, she estimated that the town will begin the budget process already assuming at minimum a likely 1.2% to 1.4% increase.

She began by discussing wages, typically the largest driver in budget increases. As of now, existing contracts already in place with police and town employees outline increases for both at 2.25% for FY’19; she noted that the contract with town employees expires at the end of 2020 and the contract with police expires at the end of 2021.

However, the contracts with both the firefighters and teamsters union expire in June 2019, “We’ll be budgeting based on what we anticipate,” Vanderslice said, adding that past non-union employee increases have been at 1.95%, 2% and 2%. Vanderslice pointed out that the cost of living increase has gone up 2.5-2.75%.

“We’ll see where we end up,” she added.

Vanderslice noted that employee compensation will be a major factor heading into budget season, in light of past savings the town was able to make through attrition or creative job-combining. That will likely not be the case for budgeting for FY’20.

“In previous years we reduced the number of positions, and last year we were almost flat–I think the increase was only $87,000 for wages. But right now we are not forecasting any employee position eliminations for FY’20. Instead we’re going to have to continue the conversation about whether the staffing is adequate at DPW. One thing that is clear from SeeClickFix, we have over 400 users, we’ve had over 400 issues put on by residents, and we know that residents not only care about the safety of their roads and parks, but they also care about the esthetics. I think we need to look at the staffing of DPW and Parks & Grounds, because 10 years or so ago, positions were eliminated in those departments, so maybe that’s some of what we’re seeing,” she explained.

“When we took a look at estimates with where we think we’re going to end up, the increases in compensation could be a 1.2-1.4% increase in the total BOS budget. That’s where we’re just starting.”

Vanderslice noted that other factors–pension and OPEB costs–will be lower, although the town won’t have those numbers until November. Healthcare costs will likely increase, although the town is working with a consultant to search for alternatives.

“Unless we come up with a new alternative for a healthcare plan, healthcare is certainly expected to increase. We’ll have information about the State 2 plan from the consultant [at the next BOS meeting] on Oct. 22–we’ll see what that looks like,” Vanderslice said.

She also noted that the town will also likely have to subsidize an additional $100,000 deficit at the Transfer Station, but that officials were looking at ways to change that through technology changes for future years.

In all, Vanderslice said, “We have some increase, one savings, but we’re starting north of a 1.2-1.4% increase.”