Sunderland cuts $37,000 from budget

  • Sunderland residents at Friday’s special town meeting in the Elementary School. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

For the Bulletin
Thursday, June 22, 2017

SUNDERLAND — Residents amended this year’s municipal budget by majority vote of a crowd of about about 30 at Friday’s special town meeting, cutting back spending by $37,000 to fit the town’s tax base.

Weeks ago, annual town meeting voters set a $7,578,569 budget contingent on a passing Proposition 2½ override ballot question at the May 6 annual election — required to fill a revenue gap.

The question failed, however, and town officials then created the $7,541,569 budget approved Friday.

In introducing the amendments, Selectman Thomas Fydenkevez said while the amended budget is “balanced as it is now,” the town hasn’t solved a bigger monetary problem — an increasing gap between yearly expenses and revenue.

“Typically, we increase (taxes) about 2.5 percent per year. We range between an $140,000 and $160,000 increase in our budget every year. The last two years, we almost met that increase just with our education budget. We are one of the only school districts in our county that’s gaining population,” Fydenkevez said. “Our town needs to get together to understand that we’re not adding new police officers, we’re not adding people on the highway or office, but we have some increases that we have to take into account — education is one of them.”

The selectman noted he was the only member not to recommend the budget at a prior board meeting.

According to the warrant, the lower budget was made “by reducing appropriations under various line items for such purposes and transferring the sum of $26,914 from Free Cash.”

Those reductions include $12,000 from schools; $10,000 from benefits and insurance costs; $6,000 from the town’s building maintenance allotment; $4,000 from general government spending; $1,000 each from the library, police, inspections, miscellaneous, and highway department funds.

The school was able to minimize financial impacts to students from the cuts with unexpected money resulting from a change in one student’s tuition agreement. Looking ahead, however, Committee Chairman Douglas Fulton said next year school and town officials “will have to look at some tough choices” if there’s no change in revenue.

The budget’s exact overall expenses as passed Friday are as follows: general government, $420,865; town buildings, $219,579; police department, $442,982; inspections, $39,226; highway department, $272,478; library, $134,544; schools, $2,500,338; benefits and insurance, $721,200; miscellaneous and reserve, $110,901.

Other items

Sunderland voters also unanimously decided to reduce “from $105,000 to $65,000 the amount transferred from free cash to the Anniversary Celebration Fund for the Town of Sunderland’s 2018 Tri-centennial celebration,” the warrant said.

Before the vote, organizers of the celebration explained what the money will be used for, noting the town is simultaneously soliciting donations for the event.

Another question unanimously approved $14,793 from the Capital Stabilization Fund to purchase and install a fuel pump dispenser system at the Highway Garage.