Athol: Suhoski briefs Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee on revenue projections

  • SUHOSKI Contributed photo

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 3/16/2021 1:34:21 PM
Modified: 3/16/2021 1:34:20 PM

ATHOL — Town Manager Shaun Suhoski last week updated the Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee on the town’s revenue projections for the approaching fiscal year. Suhoski said that he and members of his finance team — basically, the municipal department heads — are putting the “finishing touches” on what he said would be a balanced town budget for FY22.

“We have a balanced budget proposal, in theory,” he told the committee. “It’s being sent around back to the department heads, just for a tweak to make sure everything looks good on our end.

“As you know, every year we start with the revenue projections as the basis for that.”

In all, current projections call for a foundation of just over $21.8 million in revenues on which to construct a spending package for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

That foundation includes more than $16.2 million in total property taxes. Of that amount, the real estate tax levy limit is set at just over $13.8 million, with the increase allowed by Proposition 2½ adding another $345,000 and estimated new growth income adding $120,000.

Several voter-approved debt exclusions add nearly $2 million in taxation, to reach the $16.2 million total.

Suhoski said the debt exclusion total “looks like a lot, but three of them are really all just one project for ACES (Athol Community Elementary School), and three others were part of one question for a bridge, sidewalks, and the DPW.”

The projects referenced by Suhoski include the reconstruction of the Exchange Street Bridge, new sidewalks along Pleasant Street, and replacement of the roof at the Department of Public Works.

Other income includes $1 million in motor vehicle excise taxes, along with $175,000 in penalties and interest.

Departmental receipts coming from various fees and/or fines paid to a number of municipal departments — including the police and fire, and public works departments, the town clerk, inspectional services, and Board of Health — will provide an estimated $276,000.

Suhoski is also predicting $850,000 in ambulance revenue, which makes up the bulk of a total of nearly $1 million in miscellaneous receipts. When that amount is added to the totals for excise taxes, penalties and interest, and other receipts and reimbursement, the total of local receipts comes to nearly $2.8 million.

Suhoski then discussed projections for state aid.

“These are the governor’s budget numbers,” he said. “So, these figures come straight from our projected Cherry Sheets. You’ll see that between (FY) 2020 and 2021, when COVID hit, we were — in retrospect — fortunate. They didn’t cut local aid. They level-funded us.”

Over that two-year period, the town received just over $2.8 million each year. With a projected growth in state revenue of 3½ percent for FY22, the town is likely to receive $2.9 million in unrestricted state aid.

“The other thing we cut last year,” said Suhoski, “is we were on a pretty strong growth trend in meals tax revenues. Last year, we were projecting somewhere around $150,000. But you never know what’s going to happen and, truth be told, COVID hit. So, we just applied a blanket 30 percent — pretty drastic — reduction. It turned out that it flattened out, but it didn’t nosedive.”

As a result, with meals tax revenue for FY21 coming in at around $85,000, Suhoski said he’s relatively comfortable projecting $120,000 in receipts in FY22.

In all, preliminary income from the state is pegged at just over $3.3 million. However, the town is assessed by the state for several items, including regional transit costs, to the tune of $123,000. Therefore, the town will likely receive a total in state aid of slightly less than $3.2 million.

When all the addition and subtraction is finished, estimated general fund revenues are figured at $21.8 million. Suhoski said one of the positive aspects of this year’s revenue projection is that there will be no need to draw on free cash to balance the budget. Last year, the town had to draw $159,000 from free cash to balance the books.

“I’m really confident,” Suhoski concluded. “We’ve gone through this a few times with the finance team and we have good grip on the revenue projections.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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