Reading, MA — December 9 began the first of two budget meetings hosted by the Select Board dedicated to the Fiscal Year 2022 town department budgets. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur explained that he directed the department heads to “unplug from reality and ask for what they would like without constraints.” He further explained that these budgets may or may not reflect how his recommended budget to the Finance Committee would appear.
Library Director Amy Lannon began the process by presenting two budgets for her department. For $1,855,950, the first represents a 2.9% increase and seeks to “maximize existing staff members” by realigning staff hours. Lannon explained that the COVID-19 situation has “uncovered inequities in the service [the library] provides.” She also shared that in FY 2020, the library provided a value of service of $7,409,593 to the community.
The second budget request from the library included a new position for an Equity and Social Justice Director. This new position results from the recommendation of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Human Rights to the Library Board of Trustees. The new position would add $70,555 to the budget, creating a 6.7% overall budget increase over FY2021. Lannon said that the additional position would be subject to Town Meeting approval.
Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom shared the department’s budget request, including increasing one .87 full-time equivalent (FTE) position to a 1.0 FTE position. Overall the finance department, which manages paychecks for all 1,300 town employees and processes over 125,000 payments made to the town each year, presented a budget with a 2.0%, $802,350 increase to the salary line.
Matt Kraunelis, Director of Administrative Services, submitted a budget request that is a 1.4% decrease from FY2021. Kraunelis explained that the reason for the decrease is directly related to election expenses. In FY2021, there were four elections, but only one election is anticipated in FY 2022. Otherwise, the request represents a level-service budget.
Director of Public Works (DPW) Jane Kinsella submitted a budget that represents no additional staffing to the 60 year-round and four seasonal employees currently employed across eight department divisions. Kinsella is requesting a total of $2,842,875 for salaries, which represents a 1.9% increase over FY2021. Kinsella reported that the cemetery department would no longer be offering grave liners for purchase. These will now be provided to families by the funeral homes. This change will decrease the cemetery expense line item by $9,500. As a result, the small recommended increases to other DPW division expense lines only increases the total expense budget by $500.
Kinsella also presented budgets for enterprise funds. There has been an 18.8% increase in town water usage, attributed to more people being home during the pandemic. The average water usage of 52.28 gallons per capita daily Reading uses is still 24.3% under the state suggested limit of 65 gallons per capita daily. Water distribution salaries will increase by .6%, and sewer salaries will increase by .5%. Stormwater salaries will decrease by 7.6%.
The Select Board will continue to review budget presentations on Tuesday, December 15.