Friday, March 6, 2015

Encouraging Budget News

Budget Coordinating Group meets in Town Hall this morning

The Budget Coordinating Group, made up of key players from the town, schools and library, had their first and last meeting of the year this morning to go over the proposed FY16 budget, and came away with good news.

After all was said and done concerning the Governor's recently released state budget, which increased "unrestricted local aid" by 3.6%, the likely scenario is Amherst will get only $45,000 less than what town officials projected back in the fall.   Town Manager John Musante described that as "not much more than a rounding error" considering the proposed total budget is $71 million.

Although the town manger did also mention that a state economic development program lost funding so that will cost the town another $75,000, two-thirds of which he had earmarked to help fund a newly proposed "Economic Development Director."

But the Town Manager made it quite clear he still supported adding the position saying, "I continue to believe strongly this is the year to act on it."  And that he would, "Figure out how to fund that  initiative" by reallocating money within the municipal budget.

Costs for the Elementary Schools losing students to Charter Schools was off by a whopping $443,000 over original town estimates, but School Finance Director Sean Mangano said the Governor was using the wrong figures: 94 students vs the correct number of 77.

By April firmer state aid figures will be forthcoming.

The Library Budget generated the most interesting discussion.  Director Sharon Sharry was a tad unhappy about using state aid money for routine operational overhead rather than library materials.

She requested clarification because a news story seemed to indicate the $9,000 new cost of providing sick leave benefits to part-time staff would be partially covered by town funding and not all from her budget?

The Town Manager, in a forthright but Mr. Rogers sort of way said, "Find it" (meaning within the Library budget).

Perhaps the most interesting information presented at the meeting was the broader acknowledgment that the Jones Library and their immediate neighbor the Strong House (home to Amherst Historical Society) is indeed working towards a merger.

$145,591 in red ink is offset by Elementary Schools coming in $100K under budget

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