WILMINGTON — Town Manager Jeff Hull delivered a town budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, with a grand total of $119,852,135 at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday night. He shared that his goals for the budget were to increase by no more than one percent, to provide the services residents were used to, to avoid layoffs, and to invest in infrastructure and equipment.
Reaching his first goal, the increase proposed is only .46 percent from the $119,306,362 proposed last year. He mentioned that with uncertainty, it was his desire to limit increases and still balance all of the competing requests. While the budgets for areas like Wilmington Public Schools and the Shawsheen Tech are increasing, that of shared costs like insurance, interest, and statutory charges will decrease.
Some more specific items increasing will be the cost of salary adjustments and overtime, especially for the police and fire departments, and technology; versus costs for fuel, recycling, and capital going down. He also mentioned that revenue is expected to increase by $500k with the shift of the tax levy and new growth.
The Wilmington Public Schools budget is up 2.5 percent from last year with no staffing increases. Hull said that Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand talked about salary adjustments being the majority of the need, along with the expectation that most students who left the district this year would return. The Shawsheen Tech budget is increasing due to the increase in enrollment there.
The biggest projects coming up are the new town hall/school administration building, the senior center, and the fire substation. Hull mentioned that the first two might come before Town Meeting soon with funding for construction, whereas the fire substation is still identifying a site.
Technology improvements will include replacing computer labs, projectors, and network switches. Other smaller items for improvement include but aren’t limited to replacing town vehicles, police radio infrastructure and computers, track resurfacing, adding a sidewalk plow, replacing the ceiling tiles at the Woburn Street School, and moving an underground sewer pump above ground. They also plan to clean 15 town wells, install sensors on Woburn Street, and pay off a remaining debt to Russell Disposal for the barrels that the town purchased for all residents.
The only personnel increases proposed are a new police sergeant and a relief custodian. Two of the many things helping to decrease costs this year were saving on legal fees and paying off the high school project debt.
All the proposed requests involve $2,252,000 from free cash, $555,000 for water and $65,000 for sewer. There is also a $750,000 cost to Chapter 90.
In his final remarks, Hull recognized the compassionate work of the police and fire personnel, the gracious help of the IT and Recreation departments, and the adaptability of services like Veterans Services, the Senior Center, and the library.
“Each one of you plays a vital role in the operation of local government,” he said. “Thank you for your service.”
He said it’s up to the department heads and himself to make the cases for all the budget proposals to the Finance Committee starting with the first hearing the very next night. The Finance Committee will conclude the budget hearings and make recommendations on March 16, and the entire budget will be voted upon at Town Meeting on May 1.
Several board members appreciated Hull’s conservative approach for the coming year’s budget. Eaton said this was a testament to their historical budgeting success.
“It struck me immediately that you kept [the budget] as tight as you could this year,” said O’Mahony.
Bendel specifically mentioned the investments being made in education, public safety, and infrastructure.
In addition to thanking Hull and everyone who helped put the report together, they plugged the upcoming Finance Committee meetings and anticipated diving deeper into the budget.
“This is really the most important thing that we do,” O’Mahony continued. “We want everyone to have as much information as they can.”
The Finance Committee hearings will be conducted on Jan. 26 and 28; Feb. 2, 4, 9, 11, 23, and 25; and March 2 and 4. Meetings will be broadcasted live on WCTV and be recorded and put online.