READING – At the Finance Committee meeting held on March 7, 2016, four departments presented their Fiscal Year ‘17 (FY17) budgets — Public Services, Public Library, Public Works, and Enterprise funds, respectively.
The Public Services budget is fairly straight forward and simple for FY17: Public services got a 33% bump in revenue from building permits due to a drastic increase. They are also trying to move over to electronic permitting, but it is difficult due to procedures and regulations already in place. They have also hired seven staffers to fill voids, and made all department heads full-time. All of this makes the FY17 budget slightly larger than FY16.
The Public Library had some changes in the past year: Due to state regulations, a town with less than 25,000 people — Reading until last year– is mandated to put 15% of its budget into acquiring new resources; however, now that Reading is about 300 people over 25,000, the Library only needs put 13% of its budget into new resources.
Therefore, the library is allowed to reduce its resource spending to 14.7%. Even with this slight reduction in spending, there is not enough funding to hire a Digital Services Librarian. Despite this, the Library is still asking for this staffing upgrade, if for no other reason than to keep the position in the heads of the committee.
The Public Works budget has gone up by 2.1%. Despite a few places where money has been saved — Reading not needing to hire out pavers as much, 0.3% decrease in expenses, etc. — the budget must be increased for FY17. On the bright side, See Click Fix, an app that allows residents to take a picture of a problem (e.g. a pothole that needs fixing, or a light pole that is damaged, etc.) and send it to the DPW, has been a huge success and many issues have been addressed quickly.
The Enterprise Funds had an FY17 budget that needs an 8.9% increase over the FY16 budget. There are so many projects that absolutely need to be accomplished in the coming year or two, such as water or sewer projects where homes may be flooded, that the current budget cannot cover even one of these projects, which can cost as much as $125,000 each. So despite the increase, Reading may still need change or fiscal help in the future.
The Finance Committee will hear the School Committee presentation at their meeting next week, on March 16 then vote on their recommendations to Town Meeting on March 23rd.