Local Government and Politics, News

Lynnfield keeping finances solid going into FY23

Lynnfield Town Administrator Rob Dolan (Spenser Hasak)

LYNNFIELD — Stable. In good shape. On target.

That just about sums up the current budget status of practically every department as the town heads into budgeting season.

“It was just a great brief by everyone and it’s amazing the dedication and commitment that all of you show,” Select Board member Joe Connell said to the many department heads in attendance at the recent Budget Summit. “We’re very lucky to keep town finances solid. You look at what the needs and wants of the community are and you’ve all shown you have the commitment to the community and sound expertise, which is so great.”

Select Board Chair Dick Dalton opened the summit saying, “There’s never an easy budget, even in the best of times.”

Town Administrator Rob Dolan said it’s important to remember that the primary responsibility in setting fiscal year 2023 budgets is the “fiscal health both short term and long term,” which is especially more important now.

“We knew the town had incredible financial benefits and revenue from MarketStreet, but that’s over,” Dolan said. “We looked at 2020-22 and the trend indicated we would see large budget deficits so we were at a crossroads, but your hard work allowed us to avoid these deficits. There are significant challenges ahead, but also strong performance in the coming years. We cannot go back to MarketStreet funding. While needs must be met, every budget must be sustainable.”

Superintendent of Schools Kristen Vogel and Finance Director Thomas Geary said the rising costs of special education, social and emotional learning, technology and transportation will continue into next year with Geary adding that the district has been able to offset those costs from other revenue sources.

Vogel said the district’s FY23 budget will ask for funding for technology and textbook upgrades as well as funding for improvements to the district’s auditoriums (to bring up to code.)

Lynnfield Media Studios Executive Director Eric Hamlin, Director of Veterans Services Bruce Siegel, A Healthy Lynnfield Substance Abuse Coordinator Peg Sallade and  Health Director Kristen McCrae and Town Accountant Julie McCarthy said their FY23 budgets will be similar to FY22, while Building Inspector Joe O’Callaghan said his department’s budget will be “at or under budget” next year.

Library Director Abby Porter said the library’s FY22 budget is “on target” but is looking to add more staffing to meet demand in the children’s room and also hire a full-time technology reference librarian as well as capital upgrades in technology.

Town Clerk Linda Emerson said her budget will likely increase next year due to the fact that the town is going from one election to three.

“Our budgets fluctuate every year depending on the number of elections,” she said. “Also, we don’t know right now what the law will require regarding in-person and early voting.”

Director of Planning and Conservation Emilie Cademartori said her FY23 budget is also up in the air.

“We have two retirements so it depends on whether the new positions are combined,” she said.

Treasurer/Collector Leslie Davidson and Recreation Director Julie Mallett reported their budgets will likely be unchanged.

“We won’t be asking for anything else,” Mallett said.

Police Chief Nick Secatore said the department is on track to finish the FY22 year with a “slight surplus.” The department is looking to add either a new investigator, administrative officer or traffic officer and also intends to include a capital request for a new cruiser in FY23.

“COVID definitely affected our operating budget, and our Enterprise Fund revenue (from ambulance service) was down a little because people were afraid to go to hospitals, but we have seen a steady increase lately,” said Fire Chief/Emergency Management Team Director Glenn Davis.

Golf Director Donnie Lyons said it’s been feast or famine for the town’s two golf courses. 

“Revenue was through the roof through July 1, but the weather has been awful since then,” he said. “We raised revenue a little this year, which will curtail the offset from the rain, adding the course will seek funding for drainage improvements in next year’s budget.

Escalating food costs resulted in a slight downturn in the Council on Aging’s revenue and was also responsible for the first price increase in meals in 20 years.

“It’s killing us so we had to go from $2 to $4 six weeks ago,” Director Linda Naccara said.

Department of Public Works Director John Tomasz said his department will see increased expenses in two areas — snow-plow operators, which will cost $20-30,000 more this winter and JRM trash pickup, which will increase from $98,000 this year to $190,000 next year.

“After that, the contract will settle down to about $50,000 per year,” Tomasz said.

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