TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury selectboard met last week for their first meeting of the new year.
The owners of the Skybox restaurant came before the board requesting a change in ownership license. The owner is seeking to remove his son from the license as he is leaving the business. The board voted to approve the change of officers stock or ownership interest application.
The board approved a common victualler license for Tewksbury House of Pizza.
Main Streets Sports Grille Corporation came before the board asking for an all liquor application. Formerly Main Street Pizza, the restaurant is expanding into the neighboring space that once belonged to an EmbroidMe franchise. The board approved the license, the last of its kind in town. The restaurant had surrendered their beer and wine license.
Town Manager Richard Montuori presented the FY2021 budget to the board. Montuori said there were no significant changes to the operating budgets for FY21. The presentation included a review of the budget process, a review of revenues and expenditures, FY21 town and school budgets, a five-year budget projection, future financial items to monitor, and an explanation of the Board of Selectmen financial process.
In explaining the timeline for the budget process, Montuori said the review by the Finance Committee will be two weeks earlier than prior years, a goal he had set.
Expenditures are monies the town must spend for both the town and schools, as well as state and county charges, and other local expenditures. The total appropriation needed for expenditures in FY21 is projected to be $121,560,466, an increase of $3,759.657 over FY20.
State and county charges are expected to be around $1,774,061, including Mosquito Control, regional transit assessment with the LRTA, and the charter school assessment.
Sources of revenue include the property tax levy, raised through real and personal property taxes, and new growth, or additional tax revenue generated by new construction, renovations and other increases in the property tax base.
The total property tax levy limit projected for FY21 is $96,979,165. Debt exclusions include the new fire station and the new school, but Montuori noted that the sewer debt has peaked and will now start to taper off.
Selectwoman Anne Marie Stronach and Chairman Jay Kelly both noted that Tewksbury’s infrastructure is far ahead of other communities and while the debt is high, it is already addressing issues that other communities have yet to tackle.
Home values have also significantly increased in the town. Montuori said that with the tax shift voted late in 2019, that early projections for FY21, with home values staying the same, would see an approximate increase of $183 on for residences, $143 for condos and $620, approximately a 2.6 percent increase on average.
Montuori addressed a sentiment that some residents express to not increase taxes, and explained that in order to not raise taxes, layoffs would have to occur, and then there are items in the budget that just cannot be touched such as snow and ice removal, street lights, veterans benefits, solid waste, elections, debt, utilities, building maintenance, transportation for the schools, and said there are “no frills or luxuries in the budget.”
Montuori said, “this is a level funded budget.”
State aid, another area of revenue is projected to be $17,900,744, and is again level funded as there are no firm numbers from the state house yet. Final numbers on the impact of the student opportunity act are not available, and the state is projecting slower growth.
Local receipts include motor vehicle excise tax, local meals tax, hotel/motel tax, boat excise, penalties and interest, and are projected to be increased by $542,121 over the FY20 projection.
In discussing costs for the town, a pie chart displaying the distribution was presented showing the majority of the budget allocation is to cover salaries which is a contractual cost. Other components include operations and exempt debt.
Major increases in FY22 are projected to be in solid waste disposal. The cost of trash and recycling is an area where the town will see significant impact. Tewksbury is part of a seven town coalition that has negotiated with the vendor and wisely locked in a low rate, but when the contract is up there will be a significant increase. The state is offering no relief, according to Montuori, and this is not unique to Tewksbury. The state is not providing real solutions for communities to handle these materials.
Montuori also discussed the new DPW maintenance facility which will combine town and school maintenance operations in one location. Through use of existing funds from a variety of sources, the cost of the facility will be able to be funded completely within the levy limit (the aforementioned $183 per residence) and no debt exclusion will have to be asked for by the town.
Any new funds that become available due to new growth after July 1, 2020 will be used toward the project. The board’s comments were positive about the new project and felt it was long overdue and that it would help keep equipment in much better shape and improve safety for workers.
Montuori wrapped up by stating that state aid, revenues, federal budgets and cuts all affect projections, and unfunded mandates will additionally put pressure on the community.
The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2020.