WESTFORD — In a joint meeting, the Finance Committee and Select Committee considered the 2025 budget and its impact on several departments within the city, along with two proposed budgets.
Overview of budget challenges
The Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee have begun meeting separately as early as January 2023 to highlight potential challenges within the budget.
According to Town Manager Kristen Rath, these issues will be brought “more clearly into focus” in May 2023, and a report from the Budget Task Force in October 2023 will outline some of the challenges. Cost-cutting measures are proposed to balance the town's budget.
Russ and Superintendent Dr. Christopher Chu prepared two budget proposals. One calls for the repeal of Prop. 2 1/2, and the other is a balanced budget with “significant cuts” that meet the limits of Prop. 2 1/2. Mr. Russ and Dr. Chu then presented the budget to the Board of Selectmen and School Committee in December 2023.
The Finance Committee began holding a series of public hearings in January and February 2024 to review the budget and solicit public input before finalizing the budget at Town Meeting in March.
“Honestly, in either scenario, the budget is still very tight this year,” Russ said. “Under these circumstances, we take comments from the public very seriously.”
Both the Finance Committee and the Select Committee will consider several budget variables to track potential growth and costs, and how Westford can increase energy efficiency and sustainability. I'm considering it.
Communities like Arlington have already passed two-and-a-half year overrides, while Groton and Dracut are still considering overrides, as high inflation poses some budget challenges.
“We can see that the city of Westford is not alone in this period of inflation, and other municipalities are facing similar challenges,” Russ said.
She added: “We are also very aware that there are many people who cannot afford a tax increase or who have other hardships. There are certain exemptions and tax deferral options that people can consider. . [Town] The Assessor's Office is happy to assist people through the process. ”
Impact on the sector
If the override fails, the public safety, labor, culture and entertainment, and business sectors would see reduced service hours and utility costs.
Tree Warden's proposed budget would increase personal services by $62 and an override of 0.14%. Non-override would result in fewer contracted services and a 23% reduction in overall budgeted services.
The public works budget projects a 2.1% ($5,780) increase in personal services due to cost of living increases. Non-override budgets reduce equipment maintenance and meetings and conferences.
The JV Fletcher Library will have reduced items, printing and processing supplies, mileage and subscription fees, dues and membership fees. 15% of the budget goes towards books and materials. However, some of this will be covered by the government through commemorative funds and operating funds. The library has already stopped opening on Sundays this winter as a cost-cutting measure.
The budget will be cut by $98,000 and hours will be reduced from 55 to 50 hours.
“If the budget fails, we will definitely have to apply for a waiver from the library board because it does not meet municipal spending requirements,” JV Fletcher Library Director Ellen Rainville said.
Even with the override, there will still be a reduction in recreational services, with total spending expected to decrease by $66,000.
Staff has been reduced over the years and is likely to be cut further without adequate funding. This may impact the Recreation Department's continued compliance with early education and child care licensing.
“It may be difficult to hire the staff needed to operate the program…and the department's ability to remain competitive in and around Westford. Lower enrollment means lower revenue. ” said Michelle Collette, Director of Recreation.
What's the next step?
The Select Board plans to host several meetings for residents to attend leading up to the March 23rd Annual Town Meeting and May 7th Annual Town Election.
- Finance Committee Budget Hearings – Thursdays from January 18th to February 1st at 7pm via Town Hall and Zoom
- Select Board Vote to Close Order – Jan. 23, 7 p.m., at City Hall and via Zoom
- League of Women Voters on WestfordCAT – January 24, 7:30 p.m.
- Cameron Senior Center Direct – January 26th 12:00 p.m.
- WEPTO Zoom Meeting – January 30th, 7:00 p.m.
- The Select Board will decide on the order of the warrant articles on February 13th.
A meeting with Westford SEPAC and Westford Rotary is also planned, although dates have not yet been determined. A public forum will also be held on March 4th from 7pm, but the locations of each meeting have not been announced at the time of reporting.
Residents can stay involved by: Attend Virtual Finance Committee Budget Hearing and visit The “Budget” page on the Westford website. Educational video on the Budget Select Committee's findings on WestfordCAT.