NEWBURY — Calling it a plan for “rebuilding on a strong foundation,” Town Administrator Tracy Blais recently presented her budget draft for the upcoming year to the Board of Selectmen and members of the Finance Committee.
The document includes a $16.75 million operating budget that lists as its top priority the reinstatement of cuts endured in the public safety departments over the past five to seven years.
Among the expenditures for next year is $169,027 for police salary and wages, to accommodate an increase in personnel up from nine to 11 officers. There is also funding for the police cruiser replacement plan.
The fire department salary and wages are up 2 percent with funding for training doubled in the proposed plan. The budget continues to address capital facilities needs, most notably the need for a new public safety building.
Blais is proposing a 2 percent hike in wages for non-contractual employees and $100,000 to implement the first year of a new five-year road improvement program.
For the first time it establishes a program for funding the stabilization account. Following the storms that devastated many homes along Plum Island beach this past winter, Blais said she “took a hard look” at the town’s reserve funds.
“We don’t have a significant amount of reserves. We could get though maybe one emergency,” she said. According to Blais, Newbury’s Free Cash amount falls within a state Department of Revenue recommendation that the balance be at least 5 percent of the town’s overall budget. She noted that the Massachusetts Government Finance Association proposes a Free Cash percentage closer to 15 percent, but she believes the most important factor is that the balance in the account stay relatively level.
The draft budget includes a $44,000 increase in the Principal Assessor’s position, $10,000 more for the tree warden and $100,000 for the Road Improvement Plan. A line item for DPW road materials and equipment increases $20,000; but due to the changes at the transfer station this past year, salary and wages for the Board of Health will decrease by 30 percent.