Fiscal discipline and efficient services have served Braintree well over the past few years, and while the town will need to look at more avenues for savings and revenue as federal spending tightens and the economy wavers, Mayor Joseph Sullivan said Braintree's government is well-prepared to face adversity.
"We enter the sixth year of our new form of government in the midst of a slow and uneven economic recovery, with the impact of possible federal sequestration ready to hit us at week’s end," Sullivan said in his annual State of the Town Address to the Town Council Tuesday night.
"We have persevered largely through our willingness to make the hard choices and not the easy fixes," the mayor continued. "We have left no stone unturned in our effort to provide the highest quality of services to our citizens. Where it made sense to do so we cut spending and consolidated our workforce – maintaining to this day a lower number of town employees than when we arrived in 2008."
Over the next few months, the mayor's office will put together a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 and present it to the council for approval. Sullivan said Tuesday that the budget will include additional revenue options to help combat reduce state and federal funding, but did not provide specifics.
In the past, Braintree has augmented its budget with payments in lieu of taxes from the Braintree Electric Light Department and by way of commercial tax growth through developments such as the Hyatt Place and South Shore Plaza.
"Today our bond rating has been upgraded and our reserves are $12.9 million contrasted to a balance of $2.4 million when we started our new government in January 2008," Sullivan said. "Moreover, our average residential tax bill remains one of the lowest in Eastern Massachusetts. We have added not reduced firefighters, police officers and teachers."
Sullivan also pledged to bring forward a $6.5 million capital plan and to move forward on the pool and ice rink proposed at Braintree High School.
"Yes, the Petersen Pool will be built starting this year," the mayor said.
The project's evaluation committee and the Director of Municipal Finance have completed their review of proposals and Chief of Staff and Operations Peter Morin and Town Solicitor Carolyn Murray will select "the most advantageous proposal," Sullivan said.
The capital plan will include $1.7 million for roads, $700,000 for schools and money for public safety facility upgrades.
In addition, the mayor called on long-standing discussions among Braintree, Holbrook and Randolph over a regional water treatment to come to an end.
"The time has come for Holbrook and Randolph to make the determination whether they wish to work with us or part ways as friends," he said. "Should we not come to an agreement, alternative options must and will be explored."
One example of operating Braintree's government more efficiently proposed by Sullivan Tuesday night is to transfer all municipal workers using 90 Pond St. to Town Hall. This would allow the town to sell the building for residential use and save $200,000 annually.
"In doing what is best for Braintree our practical and pragmatic decision-making has not been impeded by a rigid ideology or an unwillingness to work together," Sullivan said. "We have understood that the people of Braintree expect us to be their stewards for a brighter future and we accept the responsibility."