The Winchester Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Finance Committee, and Capital Planning Committee met on Monday evening for a budget summit.
Town Manager Richard Howard said that decisions like the approval of the Winchester High School reconstruction project have consequences, which require adjustments to the Town’s reserve table going forward, but overall, the financial picture for 2015 remains strong.
Financial Committee Chair Michelle Prior said that they want to keep reserves at $500,000 to $600,000 as a means to balance the budget with free cash that otherwise cannot be touched.
One thing that we found before town meeting was our town pension is not getting funded at all. We have not made contributions to the fund at all. We thought 2014 would be the year we would be done in 1998. “Our recommendation is to pull together a study for pension liability,” Prior said. “These aren’t, ‘I’d like to have a roof. I’d like to have a playground.’ These are bills we cannot avoid.”
Capital Planning Committee Chair Helen Philliou told the Board that the Capital Planning Committee recommended the Town prepare a five year financial plan with funding for capital budgets and operating budgets with the goal of maintaining the Aaa bond. The Capital Planning Committee recommended that this plan be completed before the 2014 Spring Town Meeting.
Superintendent Bill McAlduff told the Board that the differences between the FY ’14 and ’15 is a larger than typical increase in special education costs, the need for a new contract for Winchester teachers and which are being negotiated.
“We haven’t added any money to the general stabilization fund in two year,” Selectwoman Jennifer Wilson said. “Every year the budget grows, that finite amount of money withers, so to keep pace, we need to add. To stay where we are is not to stand still.”
The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the school budget, which Superintendent McAlduff estimated will total $41,000,104, on January 28.