Photo: Belmont Board of Selectmen.
What would you do with an extra $386,000 in next year’s budget? Give it back to taxpayers? How about spending it right off to repair the roads?
“That $386,000 has generated quite a bit of discussion around town,” said Sami Baghdady, the chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen.
Before Town Meeting on Monday, May 4, the Selectmen tentatively decided the $386,000 in additional state aid the town was not expecting into next fiscal town budget will be heading over to the Capital Budget Committee to be used to assist big-ticket items.
“Finally, all our pleading paid off,” said Anne Marie Mahoney, chair of the Capital Budget Committee, after the meeting.
Town Meeting will need to approve the allocation to Capital Budget in June when budget articles are voted.
After debating for more than a month what to do with the funds, the Selectmen’s decision to park the money in a Capital Budget Stabilization Fund comes at the expense of taxpayers. By not increasing the tax levy by the “extra” state funding, residential homeowners would have saved on next year’s tax bill, according to Town Treasurer Floyd Carman.
“Having just voting a considerable override, this would be a little bit of relief, maybe $40 to $50 or so to the taxpayers,” said Baghdady.
“I’d really like to turn the money back to the residents, but we need to give direction,” said Selectman Mark Paolillo.
Yet during last week’s Warrant Committee meeting, Town Moderator Mike Widmer called the tax relief move “a gimmick” as there are real needs to be serviced in town.
Other possible uses included replenishing the Belmont School Department’s special education stabilization fund, the entire $250,000 in the account will be used to fill a $500,000 budget gap facing the department this year.
But there is a real need for the Capital Budget Committee to obtain additional funds since the $240,000 it will receive from the $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override approve by voters in April to finance a million dollars in bonds for miscellaneous items, is about to be used to replace to the 45-year-old fire alarm system at Belmont High School. Belmont’s Fire Chief David Frizzell said if the system fails, the high school building will be closed.
“So the intention of giving us more money to fund our pay-as-you-go capital budget is not happening because it’s going to the fire alarm system,” said Mahoney.
“It’s frustrating to us … expecting that when the override passed we would get some more money to deal with our list,” she said.
When Paolillo asked Mahoney if the committee needed the money, she listed off a half dozen “immediate” projects that requires action.
By the end of the meeting, the Selectmen believed the best use of the $386,000 is by providing Capital Budget with the extra cash.
The Capital Budget Committee is meeting on Wednesday, May 6, at 6 p.m. at Belmont High School to discuss how the extra money will be allocated.