By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — SALISBURY — Running the town could cost 3 percent more next year, due primarily the hiring of three more staff members for the police, fire and DPW, and an increased Salisbury Triton School District assessment.
At the May 20 Town Meeting, voters get a chance to question, approve, change or reject the budget proposed for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. In final draft form, the spending plan is at $20,441,584, up $596,758 from the current budget.
As in year’s past, about half of the budget, more than $10 million, goes to cover the town’s education costs.
For the first time in years, the town budget holds additions to the town’s workforce as well. After years of asking for more staff, Public Works director Donald Levesque is slated to get another employee.
The Fire Department will also get a full-time person to manage safety inspections. That will help fire Chief Rick Souliotis clear the backlog of inspections, he said, and bring the town’s firefighter full-time staff up to six. There are also 14 part-time firefighters who staff the department on nights and weekends, Souliotis said.
The police department will gain the most under the proposed new budget, which will add a lieutenant at the request of police Chief Tom Fowler. The lieutenant’s position would bring the total number of full time officers to 16, including the chief, four sergeants, and 10 patrolmen.
Fowler was also granted money for an additional cruiser, to replace one vehicle in the town’s aging fleet. Fowler will also triple the department’s training allotment.
“I’m very excited about the increase in training funds,” Fowler said. “This will help our officers be more professional and it will also lower the town’s liability.”
Fowler expressed his gratitude for the additions to his budget.
“I was very fortunate,” Fowler said. “And I take this as a sign of the town’s commitment to moving the police department forward.”
According to the latest version of the budget presented to Warrant Advisory Committee members this week, Town Manager Neil Harrington and Finance Director Andrew Gould are projecting town revenues will grow by nearly $600,000, or 2.8 percent to cover the rise in expenses.
Tax revenues are expected to increase, as is income from fees. In addition, town officials estimate Salisbury will receive almost $73,000 more in state local aid next year.
Harrington told members of the Warrant Advisory Committee, which oversees the town’s fiscal concerns, the proposed budget holds a 3.2 percent increase in the town’s Triton School District assessment, compared to last year’s numbers.
“The 3.2 percent increase is more than the town informed Triton that we could afford, which was 2.2 percent,” Harrington said. “It’s about $290,000 (more), but we found a way to fund it.”
Harrington said one of the things that helped the town absorb the Triton increase is that its assessment for Whittier Regional Technical High School went down because the number of Salisbury students enrolling at Whittier is projected to decrease.