Braintree's fiscal year 2013 budget as proposed by Mayor Joseph Sullivan at Tuesday night's meeting would increase expenditures 5 percent over the current year to $101 million, boosting funding for schools, public safety, recreation and other areas in what the mayor called "an articulation of the values we promote as a community."
"We have persevered through some of the most difficult financial times our Commonwealth and our country have ever seen," Sullivan said. "Working together we kept our community on the right course and have not wavered from doing what was best for Braintree."
The draft budget was referred to the Committee on Ways & Means, which will hold review meetings at 6:30 p.m. at on May 2, 7, 8 and 9. Further meetings for revolving funds, line item transfers, the capital budget and follow-ups with department heads will be held on May 21 and 22, followed by the Annual Town Meeting for a likely vote on the entire document by the full council on May 29.
"Your hard work and scrutiny is welcomed and encouraged," Sullivan told councilors.
One half of the $4.9 million increase would come from the school department, where the extra money is slated primarily for contractual pay increases, along with money for nine teachers previously funded by the federal stimulus, plus nine new positions. The $2.4 million education hike would be the largest increase in such spending in 10 years.
The budget would also increase uniformed police personnel from about 70 to 75, and in addition put five full-time officers on the street through the hiring of civilian dispatchers. Retirements in the police and fire departments would be filled and overtime would be increased for both. Overall, the police budget would go from $7.6 million to $7.97 million and fire from $7.08 million to $7.3 million.
Other areas of increase include Planning and Community Development (approximately $70,000), Blue Hills Regional Technical School dues ($41,000), Department of Public Works ($307,000), Elder Affairs ($20,000), Library ($22,000), Town Clerk ($7,000), Law ($5,000), Human Resources ($675,000), and Finance ($628,000).
The Town Council, Mayor's Office and Municipal Licenses and Inspections would remain essentially flat.
"In a time when bond rating agencies are placing a negative outlook over the entire government bond market, including U.S. treasury bonds, Braintree continues to improve its financial status," Sullivan said. "In fact, since 2008 we have more than tripled our reserves from $4 million of our budget to $12.4 million."
Councilor John Mullaney praised Sullivan for his stewardship of Braintree's finances during the past four years, and particularly for encouraging the kind of development that has boosted commercial property tax revenues. In his speech, Sullivan pointed specifically to the new Hyatt Hotel on Granite Street and the redevelopment of the Circuit City building as as examples of improvements to local receipts.
"But make no mistake," Sullivan said, "we will not use our improved fiscal condition as an excuse not to be efficient."
As part of the budget discussion, Sullivan said he expects a decision to be reached by the end of this month on whether or not Braintree will join with Holbrook and Randolph to build a regional water treatment plant.
"With all respect to Holbrook and Randolph, we need to get away from the parochialism and think in a regional way," Sullivan said.
The average Braintree family would see a water rate increase of less than $100 for the year starting July 1, the first increase of its kind since 2007, the mayor said. Sullivan's proposal also sets aside money for possible midyear local aid cuts from the state.
"We've had some challenges and we seem to be headed in the right direction," Councilor Tom Bowes said in response to the mayor's presentation.
Approximately $73 million of the town's revenues for FY2013 are expected to come from the local tax levy, $14.7 million from the state, $12 million from local receipts and $681,000 from various sources such as transfers from the golf and water and sewer funds.