At its January and February meetings the Board of Finance considered operating budget forecasts from the administrations as well as the various pieces of the revenue picture. In January the Board of Finance set operating budget guidelines of 4 percent, reflecting the increasing cost of special education and outplacements as well as for health benefits. Offsetting the increase in expenditures are an increase in revenues from the state in both the Education Cost Sharing and Special Education Excess Cost grants, as well as the beginning of a significant decline in annual debt service expense over each of the next three years.
Also of note is the first year of what should be three or four years of a slightly greater-than-average growth in the grand list of taxable property of 1.44 percent before any adjustment by the Board of Assessment Appeals. Combined, these elements have led the board to target a mill rate change in the 2 percent range, which is in line with the modest inflationary trend faced in our own households.
Over the next month the administrations will be refining their respective budget requests for review by the operating boards. By April 1 the boards of selectmen and education will submit finalized requests to the Board of Finance for its consideration. After weighing the budget requests, and balancing them against all relevant revenue information available, the BOF will prepare the final budget package to take to public hearing for review and comment. After this public hearing, which by charter is held on the second Monday of April (4/8), the BOF will makes its decision on whether to modify or send the combined budget package as-is to referendum, which again by charter is to be held on the fourth Monday of April (4/22).
A significant component on the revenue side of the ledger – and lately the wild card – is what the town receives from the state in terms of municipal aid. While what the Governor presented mid-February is overall fairly flat statewide, it does take money away from the towns and shift it to the cities. Under his proposal, Granby looses a total of $352,909 in the first year and another $278,000 in the second — equivalent to nearly 1 percent in property tax in the first year alone. This includes the start of shifting a portion of the state’s funding cost of the teachers’ pension plan from the state to the towns. This change simply shifts the burden but does nothing to address the underlying cost drivers.
As we shape each year’s budget, BOF looks beyond the upcoming year to those immediately following. In the fall when the two operating boards begin preparing a look at the next year (the Plus One Budget), they also look ahead at subsequent years and not just operations but also infrastructure and capital. Each fiscal year is but an integral part of the long view of how to best manage our resources— programs and people, buildings and infrastructure— to meet the needs of the people of Granby with quality product at a reasonable cost.