Manager says proposed $196m fiscal '23 budget prepares for future override


See the ACMi video of Sandy Pooler, finance director,
explain the town budget proposal.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019
The town is trying to best prepare for the upcoming override, which is still to be considered for FY 2024 and beyond.


-- Chapdelaine 

UPDATED Feb. 17: Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine outlined the his fiscal 2023 town budget proposal to the Select Board on Feb. 7. He said the $196,562,375 plan exercises fiscal discipline, while maintaining quality municipal services across all departments.

See the spending plan here >>

“For the revenue projections, we conservatively budget revenues and control our expenditures,” said Chapdelaine.” Total revenues are up 3.14 percent. 

Regarding expenditures, he said the town is trying to best prepare for the upcoming override, for the operating budget, which is still to be considered for FY 2024 and beyond.

The budget maintains the board’s override commitments. It maintains the investments that were committed to as part of building Arlington’s future: the high school project, strategic plan funded by the school committee and senior transportation.

“The board has tried to minimize the impact of the tax rate on seniors," he said. "It’s not part of this budget, but it’s an ongoing process, and many of the actions adopted by Town Meeting are now in effect.

“The budget also maintains the board’s commitment of keeping at least 5 percent of financial reserves (and is significantly beyond that) for the duration of the four-year plan.

“We received a significant amount of requests from departments, which I think is an honest reflection of the need that they see in the community, but because of our desire to control costs and stay within the long-range plan, we were able to fund only very targeted investments. The biggest one was to being able to sign a three-year extension for our recycling and trash contract,” said Chapdelaine.

Arlington bonds rate triple A

The town’s AAA bond rating—the highest attainable—was reaffirmed again this year, said Town Treasurer Phyllis Marshall at the Feb. 7 Select Board meeting.

“This is great news,” said board Chair Steve DeCourcey.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC was the winning bidder to underwrite the bonds, with an average interest rate of 2.416 percent, for an $82,445,000 30-year general-obligation bond issue. The town received seven competitive bid from bond underwriters, said Marshall. 

“The issue includes $75 million exempt debt for the high school project, $11.2 million for the construction of the DPW municipal facility as well as various projects townwide for capital improvement,” wrote Marshall in a Feb. 3 memo to the board

Sandy Pooler, Deputy Town Manager and finance director, said, “The historically low interest rate and high cash premium we received, and will use to reduce the amount the town borrows, will limit the amount put on the debt-exclusion tax increase to our residents.” 

The amount of the debt-exclusion tax increase is estimated to be $100-per-year lower than the original estimates, based on an average single-family home assessment of $844,658, according to an email from the town.

Select board member Eric Helmuth said, “I appreciate the bond rate that makes this feasible for us.”

Fiscal '22 second-quarter finances on track

“We have no budgetary problems with our spending. We’re halfway through the year, so our spending and revenue rates should be at 50 percent, and most are. Although some departments have spent over 50 percent, that’s for explainable reasons, and consistent with previous years,” said Pooler. 

A Feb. 4 memo from Pooler to the board lists any expenses at or above 60 percent (more than 10 percent variance from where the town should be at this time of year). “There have been some faster expenses from some departments because of the way they do business. For example, the Health Department has expended 70 percent; some of this comes from the substantial number of Covid-related expenses, which will be reimbursed from FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency],” wrote Pooler.

In addition, all revenue categories and enterprise funds are being collected on schedule, added Pooler in the Feb. 4 memo.

Funds received for Council on Aging, Youth Counseling Center projects

Arlington’s Health and Human Services department received funds from various entities to create and maintain programs for the town’s Council on Aging and Counseling Center.

A memo to the board from Christine Bongiorno, health and human services director, describes these funds:

  • $34,000—Council on Aging: Supports residents displaced by the Chestnut Manor fire;
  • $25,000—Council on Aging: Supports residents in need; and
  • $8,750—Youth Counseling Center: Subsidizes mental health counseling sessions for families in need.
Board endorses ARPA investment in affordable housing 

The board unanimously approved $319,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding for recently built affordable housing near Downing Square in the Heights.

The Housing Corporation of Arlington (HCA) built these 48 units, but now faces a budget gap, wrote Jeff Katz, HCA interim executive director, in a memo to the board and town manager.

“We believe the current financial gap can be bridged with a combination of Downing Square Broadway Initiative resources ($319K) and ARPA funding through the town of Arlington ($319K),” wrote Katz in a Jan. 20 memo, citing a projected $1,791,000 gap.

Chapdelaine said, “A number of issues led to this project having a budget shortfall, such as construction costs going over budget, and I recommend that the board endorse this expenditure of ARPA funds to close out this project, and free up the town to move onto its next project.

“I suggested half, and ARPA agreed to fund the remaining portion.” 

Board member John Hurd said, “This is an important project for Arlington, and allows ARPA funds to increase affordable units in town. It’s a perfect example of how we should be spending this money.”

“The HCA is a viable organization, and helps our town with 40B. These are fantastic units, and the funds will make it possible for them to move forward with this,” said Helmuth. 

Watch the whole Feb. 7 Select Board meeting on ACMi:

 
Feb. 7, 2022: Boston flag case spurs work on town’s sign policy 
 

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, and updated Feb. 17, to add Pooler interview by ACMi.

 
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