Photo: The budgets for fiscal ’24 for the town and schools will get underway with a public forum in mid-September
The budget process for fiscal 2025 will kick off with a town-wide public forum in mid-September which Town Administrator Patrice Garvin announced would be a prelude “to start talking about the needs of the town, the fiscal constraints, [and] the budget deficit.”
“[It’s a] start to explain to the community what the deficit is, why we’re looking for an override, and hopefully have give-and-take questions and some participation from the public,” said Garvin, noting the Select Board will be presenting a Proposition 2 1/2 override early in the New Year on the town elect ballot in April 2024 to meet the town and school’s needs in the coming fiscal year.
“It’s the start of the education [of the public],” she told the board. Garvin is aiming at an ambitious New Year’s deadline for two budgets, which is nearly two months before a drop dead date for the board to submit an override amount to be on the town election ballot.
Earlier in July, Garvin met with the chairs of the Warrant Committee – Town Meeting’s financial watchdog – Select Board, School Committee, the new School Superintendent Jill Geiser, Town Moderator Mike Widmer, and the town’s finance team to begin formulating a timeline for Belmont’s fiscal year 2025 budgets.
“It was really an opportunity to have some brainstorming and some ideas of how to … inform the public what we’re going to need for [deliverables] from the schools and the town,” Garvin said in July’s gathering.
The upcoming budget process – led by the town’s financial director and assistant Town Administrator Jennifer Hewitt – will produce a pair of budgets for fiscal 2025; one assuming a successful override and the other if the measure fails.
Garvin and her team is creating a budget timeline that includes setting and meeting goals. Pushing for a successful override vote, “so it’s really critical that a lot of work on the budget is done by the end of the calendar year,” said Garvin.
Yet according to Garvin, the critical line item of unrestricted funds – free cash – is not expected to be certified by the state’s Bureau of Accounts until late October due to issues within the town’s Treasurer Department.
“And without a certified number, you can’t come to a conclusion about the size of the override level,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein.