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Manager's budget sports a 5 percent hike.

Byline: Donna Boynton

MILLBURY - Town Manager Robert Spain presented a $34.6 million fiscal 2009 budget last night, saying it sustains necessary services, but cautioning the town to be prudent in preparing budgets for the next few years.

The budget presented by Mr. Spain - after only two months on the job - represents a 5 percent increase from the current budget of $32.8 million. Mr. Spain said the town will not be pursuing a Proposition 2-1/2 override.

"While things are OK now, my prediction is that they are going to get a little tighter in coming fiscal years," Mr. Spain said. "The bottom line is that we need to be prudent about where we go in the future."

Mr. Spain noted that state aid and free cash are being affected by the slowing economy. With that in mind, he wants to "reduce the town's reliance on free cash and use it for one-time expenditures and capital improvements."

The fiscal 2009 free cash budget is $2.1 million.

That only allows for a few new positions, among them a full-time police officer and a children's librarian, with both budgeted to start in January 2009.

The budget also includes $600,000 to be added to the stabilization fund to restore it to its traditional level of more than $1 million.

Mr. Spain said the budget may change a bit in the coming weeks, as it does not contain a final budget from the School Committee. He created his budget based on a preliminary public education budget of $17.8 million, which includes both Millbury Public Schools and the Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School.

The Millbury Public Schools budget for the current year is $15.9 million. Based on the preliminary numbers, the local school system's budget increased $1.1 million, to $17 million. But Mr. Spain expects the overall increase to be about $1.3 million. Any increase will be subtracted from the stabilization fund.

The general government budget increased slightly, from $1.51 million to $1.52 million. Some of the increase is because of a few additional hours for the town manager's administrative assistant.

The Public Works budget has increased from $1.4 million to $1.5 million, mainly because of money added to the snow and ice account. The town budgeted $146,000 in this year's budget for snow and ice, but that account is now $71,000 in deficit. Mr. Spain said salt costs $54 a ton, and is expected to rise to $64 a ton next year.

The Health and Human Services budget has increased from $339,013 to $382,802. The increase includes an assistant inspector for the Board of Health and an increase in the Veteran's Services budget.

The town's health insurance costs have increased 7.8 percent, but the increase is offset by collective bargaining agreements to increase the employee health insurance contribution.

Mr. Spain said there is also $450,000 in capital items included in the budget. That includes a new Fire Department air compressor to refill portable tanks; a Department of Public Works car lift; and a Town Hall phone system.

Other highlights in the budget:

$4.3 million in local estimated receipts, an increase from $3.9 million in this year's budget.

A 3.4 percent increase - or $317,000 - in state aid, for $9.5 million. The state aid figure is perhaps the shakiest of all the numbers used in the budget. The state aid figures are based on the governor's budget, which includes money from casinos. If the governor's budget is not approved, there could be a $300,000 hole to fill; however Mr. Spain said state legislators have assured him that money would somehow be restored.

$250,000 in new revenue from Wheelabrator-Millbury Inc.

Now that the budget has been presented, Mr. Spain will begin working with the Finance Committee. Mr. Spain and the Finance Committee will begin the budget review at 8 a.m. Saturday. Mr. Spain, the Board of Selectmen, the School Committee and Finance Committee will meet at 7 p.m. March 5 to work together on the budget. The budget will ultimately be taken up at the May 6 town meeting.

NAME: MILLBURY SELECTMEN
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 27, 2008
Words:703
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