WINCHESTER - As the calendar moves away from 2020 and into 2021, Town Manager Lisa Wong continues to put together her budget for FY22 (which begins on July 1). She’ll finish it up by mid-February before it goes to the Finance Committee for tweaking. Finally, it winds up in the hands of Town Meeting in May for approval.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, that schedule may need a bit of adjusting. As Select Board Chair Michael Bettencourt noted at the most recent Select Board meeting, departments heads asked for more time before submitting their budgetary needs to the Town Manager.
Wong herself said she’s still reviewing department budgets. Currently, without any cuts or using any of the remaining override money, Wong suggested the budget deficit could be $3.5M. Of the override money, only $1.7M remains (it was expected to last 2-3 years and this would be year three).
Wong added she didn’t know what the School Committee would submit yet for the school budget, but she inserted a 3.5 percent placeholder as their budget usually increases 3-5 percent each year.
As for health insurance, premiums increased by 4.7 percent and overall, health insurance increased by 4.9 percent.
The Town Manager assumed the state would keep both Ch. 70 (school aid) and unrestricted general government aid at similar levels as the current fiscal year. If the state does make a change, she said each one percent equates to approximately $100,000.
Wong’s budget shows what looks like a drop in building permits, but she told the board she was just being extremely conservative. She added that she applied for a grant, with the help of Town Planner Brian Szekely, to the Department of Housing and Community Development for rapid recovery (to help the downtown).
As the calendar approaches February, the Town Manager should have a more settled budget outlook for FY22 (especially once all the department heads submit their own budgets),