Selectmen voted at their September 17 meeting to approve the Fiscal Year 2015 budget calendar submitted by Town Manager Norman Khumalo. The calendar lays out the timeline for the upcoming budget process and establishes dates for major milestones. The official kickoff of the budget season is planned for Tuesday, October 22 at which time the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager will issue a policy statement that establishes guidelines for the budget at an all boards meeting.
By Monday, November 4, all departments must submit recommendations to the Capital Improvement Committee for capital expenditures as well as project funding requests to the Community Preservation Committee.
By Tuesday December 31, per the Hopkinton Town Charter, all preliminary budget requests are due to the Town Manager and all financial articles are due to the Town Manager/Board of Selectmen. The School Committee will hold a public hearing at the end of January – date to be decided – to present their budget.
Following the rest of the dates established by the Charter, the Town Manager’s comprehensive budget must be submitted to the Board of Selectmen by February 25, 2014 and from there, once finalized, the budget will move to the Appropriations Committee for their review.
Again, following the dictates of the Town Charter, on or before Friday, April 25, 2014, the Appropriations Committee will close its public hearings on the proposed budget and print its recommendations with 10 days to go to the Annual Town Meeting which is scheduled for Monday, May 5, 2014.
While the budget process for the upcoming fiscal year is just beginning and the budget message is yet to be determined, some of the selectmen have already made their preferences heard.
“I do not want us to be sending a message that it’s gotta be a flat budget from last year,” said Todd Cestari. “I want our department heads telling us how we can start improving our services or what they need to maintain the current level of services and just keep things moving in a positive direction. I don’t want us to get to the point where we are cutting through the bone.”
Also discussed by the board was an issue raised by Brian Herr; the practice of establishing an ad hoc budget committee or working group that includes members from various boards and committees. Herr wanted to know if that type of group would be used this year in the budget process saying that he felt it improved communication between the departments and made the budget process less tense. Khumalo responded that he preferred for the group to be used only if necessary.
“My approach here has been that if there are issues that need to be resolved, we can call that group together quickly,” said Khumalo.
“While I appreciate that it’s the tool in the box,” said Herr. “I’d like to see that tool exercised if at all possible.”