Understanding the Easton Budget Process
The “budget season” is well underway in the Town of Easton. Most Town departments have been working on their budget requests since the beginning of the year. Some with larger and more complicated budgets, like the Easton Board of Education, started to work on them much earlier. This is a time when Eastonites can participate in the budget process by expressing their interest or concerns as the budgets are being developed. A calendar for budget events is at the end of this article and can also be found under the heading “Budget Calendars” on the Board of Finance page of the town website.
The Board of Finance is responsible for overseeing development of the budgets of the Easton Board of Education (Samuel Staples Elementary School and Hellen Keller Middle School) and all 44 “Town-side” departments (Police, Fire, Public Works, etc.). It is not responsible for and has no input to the Region 9 budget which is managed by the Region 9 Board of Education (Barlow High School and the Region 9 Central Office). Over the last five years the average percentage of the budget for each has been: Town-side 39.0%, EBOE 36.5% and R9BOE 24.5%
So, what is in a department budget request? A budget request is an estimate of the total cost of running a department for the coming fiscal year (July 1, 2020 thru June 30, 2021). The request is presented in a standard format and includes the following information:
- Total Wages — the cost of wages of all employees who work in the department
- Total Benefits — the cost of employment benefits for those employees
- Operating Expense — the cost of supplies, maintenance, outside services, etc.
- Capital Expense — the cost of capital expenditures such as computer equipment and vehicles.
- Anticipated Revenue — from departments such as Town Clerk for document filing fees and Building Department for permit fees.
During the first two weeks of March the Board of Finance meets with representatives from each town department to review and clarify their budget requests. This is the time for board members to understand what is in the budget request from each department. The board does not make any changes to budgets at these meetings. All meetings are held at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center and are open to the public. As of this writing the schedule for these meetings is:
|March 3 Tuesday||Tree Warden, Conservation Commission, Registrar of Voters, Emergency Management, Police Department (including Police, Communication Dispatchers and Animal Control) and Emergency Medical Service.|
|March 4 Wednesday||Insurance Commission, Health Department, Town Clerk, Board of Education|
|March 5 Thursday||Pension & Employee Benefits, Commission for the Aging, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning & Zoning, Library, Parks & Recreation|
|March 11 Wednesday||Senior Center, Assessor and Board of Assessment Appeals, Tax Collector, Building Department, Fire Marshall, Fire Department, Public Works (Public Works, 660 Morehouse Road, Recycling, Street Lights).|
|Other smaller budget accounts will be filled in as time allows on these days.|
These schedules are subject to change. The final schedule for each evening can be found in the agenda for that meeting as posted on the Board of Finance page of the town website.
The next step in our budget process is a Public Hearing on the budget to be held on Monday, March 23 at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School. The purpose of the meeting is to give the citizens of the town an overview of the budget requests and an opportunity to voice their opinions. Separate presentations will be made by the Easton BOF, the Easton BOE and the Region 9 BOE.
The results of the initial meeting and/or the Public Hearing may indicate a need for further discussion of some budget requests. Selected departments are invited to meet again with the Board of Finance to further discuss their request. The days of March 24, 25, 26, 31 are set aside for this purpose. The result of these sessions may be a revision of a department’s budget. All meetings are held at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center and are open to the public. At the end of these meetings preparation can be made for acceptance of the budget by the town legislative body, the Town Meeting.
On Monday, April 27 a final budget proposal will be presented at the Annual Town Meeting to be held at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School. Citizens can again voice their opinions of the budget proposal. The expected result of the meeting is the referral of the budget to a referendum.
On Tuesday, May 5 a referendum will be held calling for a vote on acceptance of the proposed town budget.
If the proposed budget is accepted the Board will convene to set the mil rate. Based on the expenditures authorized by the accepted budget, estimated revenue from all sources (town charges for services, government grants, etc.) and the potential for use of funds from the Undesignated Fund Balance the mil rate will be set to provide taxation required to balance the budget.
|Easton Board of Finance Budget Calendar 2020/2021|
|Jan 6||Issue budget forms and instructions to Departments|
|Jan 6 – Feb 3||Departments prepare budget requests and return signed budget forms to the Finance Director for summarization.|
|Feb 28||Finance Director delivers all Department budget requests to the Board of Finance.|
Note: Mar 10 & 12 are tentative.
|Board of Finance will analyze and investigate estimates and hold budget discussions with Department Heads, Boards and Commissions. Meetings are open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. at the Easton Senior Center.|
|March 23 (Monday)||Public hearing on the budget 7:00pm at Samuel Staples Elementary School.|
|Mar 24,25,26,31||Revise budget requests and prepare final recommendations for preparation and acceptance of budget document. Meetings are open to the public and will be held at 7:00 pm at the Easton Senior Center.|
|April 27 (Monday) (anticipated)||Annual Town Meeting 7:00pm at Samuel Staples Elementary School.|
|May 5 (Tuesday) (anticipated)||Referendum on the budget Voting 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School|