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Selectmen Approve Special Town Meeting Warrant

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on September 19 to approve a 37-article warrant for the October 24 Special Town Meeting. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. Before doing so, the board met with Finance Director Zachary Taylor to review how Fiscal Year 2016 ended on June 30 and go over spending plans for the Special Town Meeting. Twenty-seven of the articles involving spending or transferring funds and five are proposed amendments to the town's Zoning By-laws

"We were able to hit all our goals and exceed them," Taylor said about Fiscal Year 2016, which ended on June 30. "We're in an excellent position," Selectmen Chairman Buckley commented. "I've never seen a balance sheet that looks this strong."

After reviewing with Taylor the plans for spending funds at the Special Town Meeting, Selectman Brian Murray called them "a very responsible approach" to pay for capital items, pay down debt, put money into savings and give taxpayers some relief.

Selectman William Kingkade asked Taylor if the town was not funding something that it should be. "I feel like we've covered pretty much everything," the finance director responded.

The Finance Committee reviewed all but two of the articles in late September. If all articles are funded according to spending plans agreed to by the Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator, Finance Director and Finance Committee last month, the total amount to be raised by property taxes in the current fiscal year would be reduced by $2 million and the town will have $500,000 in excess levy capacity – basically an additional amount that could be spent under the structures of Proposition 2 ½, but the town will not do so. The town also will have $1.8 million in uncommitted funds in its "Free Cash" account.

A copy of the October 24 Special Town Meeting Warrant is available at Milford.ma.us on the Finance Committee page.





Town's "Free Cash" Certified at $6.1 Million

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue certified the town's "free cash" at $6.1 million in late September – a figure $1.1 million higher than the preliminary estimate Finance Director Zachary Taylor gave town officials earlier that month. The increase primarily is due to the way the town traditionally has handled deficits in its snow and ice removal budgets –incurring the expense in one fiscal year but paying it off in the next fiscal year, town financial officials explained. Because this past winter was so mild, there is no snow and ice deficit to be paid off, they explained.

"Free cash" is a municipal finance term that encompasses money appropriated for town departments' budgets but not completely spent, as well as local revenues from permits and fees coming in higher than originally anticipated.

The Finance Committee, the Board of Selectmen and the town's various financial officials had put a plan in place for spending funds at the October 24 Special Town Meeting, including using $2 million of the free cash to lower the property tax rate. With an additional $1.1 million now available, Christopher Morin, Finance Committee chair, deferred discussion on two related warrant articles until this past Wednesday.

Informally, various town officials told the Town Crier the additional funds could be used in at least three different ways:

• Lowering the property tax rate,

• Paying for a major road repair –such as repaving Cedar St. (Rt. 85) or Medway Rd. (Rt. 109), and/or

• Paying off some long-term debt.

With regard to paying off long-term debt, Article 34 at the October 24 Special Town Meeting seeks approval to use $710,000 to pay off bonds related to renovations at the Middle School East and the roof at Milford High School now to save the town money. Town Treasurer Christopher Pilla told the Finance Committee last money that the town would be paying variable interest rates of between 4.375 percent and 6.5 percent on those bonds in the future, with the early payment saving the town $120,000 in interest costs over the next 10 years and $75,000 in principal costs in Fiscal Year 2018 and beyond. When asked by the Finance Committee members if other bonds could be paid off early, Pilla said there were some, but they each exceeded $1 million.







Capital Spending Request Info Now on Town Website

The Finance Committee has worked with the Board of Selectmen's office to make information about the capital spending requests it reviews be available on the town's website. Meeting minutes of the Long-Range Capital Planning subcommittee, as well as the proposals that relate directly to Town Meeting warrant articles, are now available at http://milford.ma.us//pages/boards-committees/finance-committee.php.

"I think this is a huge step forward in educating the Town Meeting Members and the residents" of Milford, Finance Committee Chair Christopher Morin said. At his committee's September 27 meeting, Morin said Town Meeting members have been asking for this level of detailed information.

For example, information about the $1.1-million Fire Department aerial ladder truck, $30,000 Park Department tractor, $200,000 fire doors at Stacy Middle School, $9,000 Building Department software and $190,000 Highway Department dump truck – all requests being considered at the October 24 Special Town Meeting – are available.

The proposal for the Highway Department truck, for example, is nine pages long and contains photos of the current truck that will be replaced, the desired truck and trailer to be purchased, a price quote for them, and a narrative section about why the request is being made. The Fire Department submitted a 146-page proposal in support of its request, including two other municipalities' reports on the longevity of aerial ladder trucks and when they should be replaced. The other proposals on the website are much shorter.







Woodland School Costs $2.1 Million Under Budget

With construction almost completely finished, the cost of the new Woodland Elementary School is $2.1 million under the originally budgeted $60-million amount, Building Committee Chair Aldo Cecchi told his fellow members of the Finance Committee on September 29. The new school building is built and occupied, the old one has been torn down, and work was underway to build the final component – an artificial turf athletic field, he said.

"We're close to the finish line," Cecchi said. "Right now, we're $2.1 million below budget."

"What an unbelievable job that you and [Vice Chair] Jonathan [Bruce] and the other committee members did," commented Christopher Morin, Finance Committee chair. There was a group effort by an "effective team" including the School Department's finance officials and the town's financial officials, Cecchi replied.

Finance Director Zachary Taylor noted that, five years ago, the town had expected it would be bonding $34 million for the project, but the actual number came in at $28 million. The town will be settling its final share of the project with the Massachusetts School Building Authority during this fiscal year, he said.




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