March 31, 2023

Windham Town Council begins calculating budget for coming year

By Ed Pierce

The formal process of formulating a budget for the year ahead has opened and members of the Windham Town Council were presented with preliminary figures at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The Windham Town Council has forwarded a preliminary
town budget for 2023-2024 to members of the Windham
Finance Committee and department heads for review and
potential revisions prior to a meeting to finalize items
and expenses in late April. Once the budget work is
complete, a warrant will be drafted for voters to approve
at the Annual Town Meeting in June.
Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts told councilors that he is proposing an annual town budget for 2023-2024 of $40,418,346, up from the current 2022-2023 budget of $38,227,469. That amounts to a budget increase of 5.7 percent.

During a discussion with councilors, Tibbetts said his budget proposal is being calculated from many different factors and influences, including projected lower town revenues, fixed expenses and two planned personnel additions for the town.

Also weighing into the new budget proposal is the loss of $700,000 for the town by switching from the Pay As You Throw trash collection system to a new trash cart system this fall, about $400,000 less coming in from state revenue sharing, rising energy and healthcare costs, contractual obligations, long-term debt and new staff hires.

“We know some things when we look at a budget comparison from year to year,” Tibbetts said. “We’ll have about $400,000 less in revenue from a decline in state sales taxes. And in total we’re going to be down about $1.2 million in revenue for things beyond our control.”

Tibbetts said that the town’s Long-Term Debt includes expenses for projects that are offset by grant funding. Some of these projects include an expense of $2.052 million for reconfigured sidewalks along Route 202 in South Windham offset by a grant of $1.856 million, an expense of $625,000 for rebuilding the sidewalk on Route 302 at Boody’s Corner offset by a grant of $684,000, and an expense of $751,000 to reconfigure the intersection of River Road and Route 202 offset by a grant of $751,000. Short-Term Debt includes $551,000 set aside for heavy equipment and vehicle purchases including a plow truck, an ambulance, fire department vehicles, fire pumping equipment and training materials and placing $150,000 in an account reserved for future debt.

According to Tibbetts, Windham’s Legal Debt Limitation is 15 percent of State Valuation at $2,914,100,000 or $437,115,000.

“Overall, the Town’s current total indebtedness (town and schools) is $25,641,000, or .88 percent of the state valuation, so the margin for additional borrowing is $411,474,000,” Tibbetts said. “Bonding Agencies recommend that an average of 12 to 14 percent of the total operating budget as debt service is consistent to addressing infrastructure needs.”

He told the council that as far as debt goes, Windham is in a strong spot when it comes to borrowing in the future.

“Financially we’re in a really solid position and I wouldn’t be surprised if our bonding rate improves as a result of that,” Tibbetts said.

The Windham Police Department also plans to add a new school resource officer in the year ahead and the town will also hire a new Communications Director, he said.

The town’s TIF district funding will be basically flat for the coming year as that revenue is being used for significant infrastructure improvements planned for the future such as Route 302 access roads to alleviate traffic congestion in North Windham, the North Windham Wastewater Project, and the creation of the East Windham Conservation Project.

If the proposed budget is adopted by councilors, it will lead to an estimated tax increase of about $266.16 a year for a home valued at $400,000. That equates to an increase of slightly more than $22 per month, Tibbetts said.

The budget proposal will be reviewed and scrutinized over the next month by the town manager’s office and the Windham Finance Committee. Budget revisions will be presented to the town council at its April 25 meeting.

A public hearing and final budget approval by the Windham Town Council is expected to take place at the council’s May 9 meeting. Following that, a budget warrant will be drafted for voter approval at the Annual Town Meeting in June. <

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