Select Board Begins Budget Process

Reading, MA — The public portion of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget process began on Wednesday as municipal department heads began sharing their budget requests with the Select Board. Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom proposed a $990,125 budget for the Finance Department, a 3.9% increase over FY 2022. The increase includes an additional five hours per week for one clerk in the Collector’s office. Angstrom explained that the Finance Department handles all cash management for the town, including payroll services for up to 1,300 employees, property tax assessments, and collections.

Director of Administrative Services Matt Kraunelis requested a $3,897,950 budget for his department, an 11.29% increase over FY 2022. The increase includes the cost of two additional elections, software upgrades, fiber network maintenance, and an additional two positions, one in the Human Resources (HR) Office and one in the Town Clerk’s office. Kraunelis explained that the need for an additional person in the Clerk’s office is due to an increase in public records requests. He also explained that a new HR position would allow for increased efforts in recruitment and training. Select Board chair Karen Herrick asked if the fiber network maintenance could be funded with American Rescue Plan Act Funds. Angstrom responded that this was a possibility.

Fire Chief Greg Burns is proposing a $5,859,291 budget for FY 2023, a 3.25% increase over FY 2022. There are no personnel increases proposed in the department, although there is a need to outfit three new firefighters. Burns also described over $630,000 of grants that have aided in funding various department projects. The fire department responded to almost 4,000 emergency requests in 2021.

The police department budget request is for a total of $6,193,950 for wages and expenses, which is a 2.99% increase. Chief David Clark noted that the sharing of the Animal Control officer with Wakefield had moved the cost of the position from the salaries line to the expenses line. The department is in the process of hiring a parking control officer as well as a mental health professional for the Coalition for Prevention and Support. Clark concluded by sharing that the department remains committed to providing the community with the highest level of police service, working hard to show their dedication and unwavering commitment to their mission.

Newly hired Health Department Director Adetokunbo Solarin was welcomed to the community by the Select Board as he presented his proposed budget for the department. Solarin is requesting a budget of $449,608 for FY 2023, which is a 15.7% increase over FY 2022. Solarin expressed the need for a new administrative person as the department’s move to the police station will result in the loss of the services of the Public Services department administrative personnel. Solarin also requested $30,000 to digitize twelve filing cabinets worth of departmental records for easier access and storage.

Director of Facilities Joe Huggins presented a request for a $3,646,811 budget for the combined Core and Town Facilities departments. This is a 3.24% increase over FY 2022. Huggins reported that 73% of the 2,933 work orders in FY 2021 were done in-house as opposed to by outside vendors.

Town Manager Robert LeLacheur shared with the board that the remainder of the town departments will present their FY 2023 budget requests at the Select Board meeting next Tuesday, December 14. At that time, he will also give a budget summary to the board and ask the board to begin to consider their budget priorities. “You can’t possibly do everything that is being asked.” LeLacheur opined. The board will continue with its budget work in January.

The Select Board adjourned at 9:10 pm.

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