EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 19, 2013

Windham faces 10 percent budget hike

Town administrator won't endorse spending proposal

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — Town Administrator David Sullivan delivered a nearly $14 million proposed budget to selectmen that would increase spending by more than 10 percent.

For the first time in his years as town administrator, Sullivan conceded he couldn’t endorse the budget, because critical decisions must be made by selectmen.

“We’ve done the best we can,” he told the board. “It needs the board’s involvement to prioritize some issues before you.”

Spending would increase about $1.3 million, or 10.52 percent, under the budget Sullivan gave selectmen.

He said the operating budget would be up about 5 percent, or more than $600,000.

But special articles, including funding for contracts for police, firefighters and other municipal workers, would add another $350,000, he said.

Capital spending projects would account for more than $360,000, Sullivan told selectmen.

“What’s happening budgetarily this year is we are hitting a perfect storm,” he said.

The town also is dealing with increased retirement expenses and has to fund property revaluation, Sullivan said.

He did raise the possibility of a “what if” budget alternative that would hold the increase under 6 percent.

That would involve spreading the cost of some equipment leasing or purchases over three years, but such a move would require three-fifths voter approval, he said.

The town also could defer proposals for hiring or increasing part-time employee hours, Sullivan said.

The budget follows a series of years in which officials have managed to keep spending level or close to it.

“We did a heck of a job” in those years, Sullivan said.

Officials didn’t discuss the potential tax impact during Sullivan’s presentation.

Selectmen now take up the budget.

“We’ll take it up in earnest next week,” Selectmen’s Chairman Phil LoChiatto said.

The town deliberative session will be held in February.

Voters will pass judgment on the budget at Town Meeting on March 11.