HOPEDALE — Voters will decide on a debt exclusion at the end of the month that is expected to fund more than half a dozen local expenditures for public safety equipment, road repairs, vehicle purchases and more.
“I think in this particular case, we’re hopeful (voters will) support us, because we need additional capital items,” Town Administrator Diana Schindler said. “We are working on several projects that need investment.”
The debt exclusion is $292,556. A debt exclusion, as opposed to a tax override, is temporary and in effect until a debt is paid.
The election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 29.
Though the town had a budget gap of a little less than $300,000 going into the May Town Meeting, which approves the budget, finance officials used free cash to cover it.
But free cash is a one-time funding source, and is not recommended to cover recurring costs.
Part of the town’s financial strategy going forward will be to keep capital items — expensive, non-recurring purchases like vehicles and building roof replacements — out of the operating budget, Schindler said.
“We’re trying to get into a more of a best practices situation where we are excluding debt for significant capital projects,” Schindler said.
Items listed under the June 29 election ballot are the roof at Memorial Elementary School, building repairs for Bancroft Memorial Library, replacement and repair of sidewalks on the Freedom Street bridge, road repair, a pumper truck for the Fire Department, four vehicles for the Highway Department, a stormwater project and establishment of a water pollution abatement trust.
Should the override fail, a special Town Meeting vote will be required to balance the budget, Schindler said, but no services or town jobs are expected to be on the cutting board.
The number voted at Town Meeting may change, Schindler said, depending on local revenues. A bump from local marijuana stores, for example, may lead to Town Meeting requesting less.
The Finance Committee is expecting to create a long-term capital plan, which would catalog the town’s assets and determine their expected life, then appropriately schedule replacement or repair.
Future capital expenses will include several repair projects in town-owned buildings, maintenance at town-owned parks and the town’s conservation land, the Parklands, dams, culverts and bridges, and searching for another source of drinking water.
That last item is essential for more development in town, which would bring in more tax revenue.
“Just understanding those things needs to be looked at in the future,” Schindler said. “We’d love to start building capital funds for that.”
The town is also expected to re-examine expensive health insurance agreements that cover all town employees, including those in unions, and the town’s trash contract, which expires this year.
Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or [email protected]. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.