Boston Globe: Wellesley officials close $2m budget gap

With days left before Wellesley’s Annual Town Meeting, officials announced that the town’s $2 million budget gap has been closed without laying off town employees.

Executive director Hans Larsen said Friday that the money is being saved by eliminating a bathroom renovation project at Hunnewell Field, energy-saving plans like retrofitting more of the town’s street lights with LEDs, and higher state funding projections.

“We have no layoffs and no pay freezes,” Larsen said. “We improved our projections and will maintain our programs and staff.”

In total, $1 million of the gap will be filled by the new cost estimates and cuts; the remaining $1 million will be taken from available cash. The budget will be voted on at Town Meeting, which begins Monday.

“Town meeting members will be voting on a balanced budget,” said deputy director Chris Ketchen. “We were able to cut the deficit in half and will cover the remaining deficit with free cash.”

The announcement puts to rest months of speculation that the budget would not be ready for town meeting. As recently as this week, when the town’s advisory committee issued its town meeting report, the budget remained unbalanced, with a gap of $2,064,974.

“We reduced the number by going back to all the departments and asking them to make cuts,” Ketchen said. “For instance, we are using some money from the building department permit revolving fund, and have made some cuts to the DPW’s budget for street resurfacing.”

Larsen added that the town’s natural resources commission has elected not to add a part-time position, and that the school’s projections for electricity costs have been revised down. A small increase to the budget came from a revised estimate of the costs to upgrade the HVAC system at Town Hall.

The budget was finalized Friday morning.

Town meeting members will also vote whether to receive a new town wide financial plan, which will contain a series of recommendations from the Board of Selectmen on future budget cycles. The plan warns that the town could need an override to address a projected budget shortfall of $5.4 million in fiscal year 2013.

“This year’s town meeting will only be voting to acknowledge receipt of the plan,” Ketchen said. “No town meeting can take a vote that could bind a future town meeting.”

In addition, numerous other articles are contained on the town meeting warrant. Some of the articles include special capital projects like the Fuller Brook Park project, a new floor for the Central Fire Station, and a new office building for the Department of Public Works.

Other articles address designating Brookside Road, which abuts the Wellesley Country Club, as a scenic road, as well as accepting a landlocked parcel at 27R Kenilworth Rd. as a gift to the town and creating a tree preservation bylaw.

The warrant includes one citizen petition, which would examine the tax exempt status of the Wellesley Country Club; however, its sponsor has decided not to move forward.

Ketchen said he expects the town meeting to last at least three weeks.

“Obviously, I think we’d all like to see it done sooner, but there’s so much ground here to cover,” Ketchen said. “I can’t imagine that it would be fewer than six sessions to get it all done.”

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About Brad Hartz
I am the owner of Hartz Real Estate, a Massachusetts residential real estate sales company specializing in houses and condominiums.

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