Belmont’s Draft Fiscal ’17 Budget Hits $105 Million, Up 4 1/2%

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Photo: David Kale (left) presenting the proposed 2017 budget.

The first draft of Belmont’s fiscal 2017 budget shows an increase in the town’s operational budget from last year of more than four-and-a-half percent and six percent for the school department, which much of the increase in expenditures from the successful $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override approved by voters in April 2015.

The release of next fiscal year’s budget, which begins July 1, was presented to a joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and Warrant Committee as well as observers from the School Committee on Wednesday night, Feb. 25. 

The proposed total town-wide budget now stands at $104,941,100:

  •  School Department: $52,656,000 ($3 million or 6 percent increase)
  • “Town” budget: $34,311,018 ($1.3 million or 4 percent increase) 
  • Capital/streets budget: $1,432,186 (-$386,000 or -21.2 percent decrease)
  • Fixed costs: (includes state charges and assessments, debt service, pension, OPEB payments, etc.) $16,541,896 ($714,000 or 4.5 percent increase)

(The school and town budgets will change as the town will receive $2,529,417 as the town absorbs the district’s facility operations, the result of a Special Town Meeting vote in October 2010.)

David Kale, Belmont Town Administrator, told assembled officials the budget is just the first draft in the process as several line items will fluctuate until close to the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Kale noted the amount of state (or local) aid of $9.3 million comes from Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget and the final number from Beacon Hill will be determined in a conference after the House and Senate submit their budgets.

If the final state aid figure falls short of the current number in the draft budget. the town is setting aside $150,000 to offset any shortfall. If the $150,000 is unused, the money will be reallocated elsewhere in the town-wide budget. 

Belmont Superintendent John Phelan to the group that this budget process is the first time in six years that the district’s central office has not required principals, department leaders and directors to freeze their annual budgets.  

Thanking the community, Phelan said the continuous infusion from the override is being spent on students and teacher, by adding 10 FTE (full time equivalent) positions to reduce overcrowding in the first and fifth grades, and providing more classroom study for high and middle school students.

But the influx of funds has not halted the belt-tightening in the district as all staff with responsibility for their budgets are required to justify “each expense and person” in a classroom, said Phelan. 

Next up in the budget process will be public meetings by the Selectmen on Department budget requests taking place on March 8 and 10 while a revised budget could be released in March just before Town Election. 

If approved by the Board of Selectmen, the budget will be submitted to the Warrant  Committee – the financial watchdog for Town Meeting – for a formal review. 

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