WINCHESTER - The town spent less and brought in more revenue last fiscal year, according to Finance Committee Chair Nicole Soto during her address to Town Meeting this week.
The town budgeted $117M in revenue but took in $119M for FY19. On the expenditure side, it budgeted $121M but only spent $119M. When revenue matches expenses that equals a balanced budget.
Additional state aid, higher taxes and more local receipts helped the town recoup more than $5M in revenue over FY18. While it still spent more than $50M on education, $17M on personnel and $13M on funded debt, the town also received $1.98M in turnbacks, i.e. money budgeted but never spent.
On the reserve side, Winchester has $8.8M in Free Cash available and $1M in retained earnings from the Water & Sewer Enterprise Fund. The town spent $327,000 in Free Cash at last year’s Fall Town Meeting and $1.24M this spring. Overall, Winchester has a reserve balance of $14,357,637, which equates to 12 percent of revenues and transfers in. That’s above the Select Board’s 6 - 10 percent policy.
The Finance Committee, itself, has a reserve fund. They spent in the past fiscal year $316,000, with most of it going to legal fees ($139,000).
Soto discussed Finance Committee forecasts that showed Free Cash dipping to 8.1 percent by FY22. She based that number on the town using Free Cash conservatively, something the town has been doing over the past few years, especially under the guidance of former Town Manager Richard Howard.
The Finance Committee Chair also mentioned the general budget override that passed earlier this year, but couldn’t say how long that money would last. There are a number of factors which will determine the answer to that question. Soto outlined some of them as: union contract negotiations (four of six not settled), health insurance increase (a volatile 3 - 11 percent year over year) and an increase in student enrollment.
She discussed other areas of concern, as well, such as the need for a new Lynch and Muraco Elementary School sooner than later, pension liability (annual payment is rising 7.75 percent each year) and Other Post-employment Benefits (increased from $87M to $129M).
Overall, though, thanks to the passing of the budget override last spring and conservative fiscal management, the town continues to operate at a high level, maintain its Aaa bond rating and take care of its student population.