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WILBRAHAM – In what Town Administrator Nick Breault said he envisions as the first of at least two and possibly three discussions with members, the Select Board received an overview of the FY25 budget proposal at the Jan. 29 meeting.

The line item review offered comparisons and contrasts to FY24 noting changes in individual department spending and expected increases for FY25.

The three largest expenditures detailed in the budget outline were the school district assessment, the current pension obligations and health insurance costs.

Breault also pointed to the levy ceiling showing at $1 million under the town’s current tax capacity, as well as department budgets including salaries with what Breault described as known increases.

Questions raised by board members regarding the FY25 proposal included where potential budget savings might be found in the listed line items.

“We’ve got to find money, we’ve got to find money, places to cut money, “said Select Board member Theresa Goodrich. “We need to look at everything.”

Areas identified by the Select Board for closer scrutiny included training conferences, heating costs and a $5,000 output for audio technology earmarked for annual Town Meetings. Goodrich questioned the request for funding of a system used specifically for that purpose when Minnechaug Regional High School, where the meetings take place, could have a viable audio system already in place.

Breault acknowledged the potential expenditure and agreed alternatives could be explored.

“I don’t disagree that it’s a lot of money and that’s why we’re bringing it up here,” he said.

Goodrich noted that the cost outlay for a once-a-year meeting of a particular crowd size warranted consideration.

“I think we need to look at this practically,” she said. “There’s maybe, if we’re lucky 400 people at this meeting and we’re going to spend $5,000 for audio, I think that’s foolish.”

In follow-up to the meeting, Breault indicated that preliminary figures for the school’s assessment increased approximately $1.8 million over FY24. The percentages, based largely upon enrollment, put the fiscal responsibility at slightly above 80% for Wilbraham and slightly below 20% for Hampden, reflecting a gradual increase over previous years.

Pension obligations for Hampden County were up by 9.6% and health insurance costs were up by 10% from last year’s figures.

The total budget proposal presented to the Select Board was $58,725,132.00.

Items left off the budget proposal include items sourced by grant funding of just over $54 thousand in Green Communities awards from the state Department of Energy Resources and support from E911 allotments toward the regional emergency response center which includes Wilbraham, Hampden and potentially Belchertown.

Meetings with the Finance Committee and school district were scheduled to follow the presentations.

The Town Meeting date has not been officially released.

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