HANSON — The Board of Selectmen got a glimpse of preliminary fiscal 2022 budget numbers on Tuesday, Jan. 13 — and the picture they paint is not a positive one.
“We’re a little early in the process because this is one of the hardest things we’re going to have to overcome in the next several months,” Selectmen Kenny Mitchell said. “I don’t think it’s a big secret, but we have a shortfall in our up-and-coming budget.”
During the brief budget discussion, Mitchell said the issue would be coming up regularly at Selectmen meetings this winter.
Outside of some numbers not in yet, Selectmen are looking at a shortfall of “around $2 million,” according to Town Administrator John Stanbrook.
Mitchell said his goal is to were to go over the options available to make up the shortfall and, if that is not possible, what town services would be affected.
“I think it’s more of a moderate assumption list of things that could happen,” Stanbrook said. “I think it could get worse, I think it could get worse … but it’s using pretty much every dollar that we have available.”
Saying the town just doesn’t have that kind of money available, Stanbrook said.
Before Thanksgiving, Mitchell and Stanbrook met with Town Accountant Todd Hassett and Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Sullivan and Selectman Matt Dyer on the budget. They met again Friday, Jan. 8.
Hassett said the town is looking toward about $108,000 in tax revenue from newly construction, noting it is still early for state aid numbers to be available, but most of the major lines have been level-funded.
“The state is still very challenged financially,” he said adding the town is looking for the state to approve a level-funded budget by the end of the month.
Local receipts, usually producing about $2 million from motor vehicle excise tax, will not produce a revenue forecast until the first payments come in later this month or in February to permit comparison to past years.
“In terms of a lot of other revenues, a lot of them are running well to our budget, but we’re not seeing a lot of excess,” Hassett said. “We’ve put about $700,000 into this year’s budget with one-time sources.”
Both the transfer station ($107,000) and recreation ($86,000) operations have been subsidized in past budgets and the operating budget was subsidized by $450,000 in free cash at the annual Town Meeting.
In the next year’s budget, the town is expecting to be using about $200,000 in free cash to fund HVAC work at Hanson Middle School. The five-year debt was approved when the town was in a better financial position.
The town has also received about $3 million in capital requests from town departments and the regional school district in a budget that “leaves very little for the town’s capital plan.”
“It’s unlikely that we will be able to move forward with many of these,” Hassett said. “I’m not sure how that will ripple trough over the next few years.”