CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen and Finance Committee continued their budget discussions last week and, before finalizing expenditures, the Finance Committee requested more information on various line items.
The two bodies agreed Tuesday that they are still about a week away from generating a public fiscal 2022 budget document with lingering questions about proposed budget expenditures.
"We identified some things that probably fall into a few categories," committee Chairman John Tremblay said. "Some things we want to check in on ... others we want to weigh in on, and some things we are seeking more info on."
Broadly, interim Town Administrator Mark Webber said he was hesitant to estimate a proposed tax rate. He said any estimate could dramatically change depending on the final budget numbers, incoming receipts, and new growth.
"I can give you a ballpark and get close," Webber said. "But you can never be exact."
Tremblay said his board would like to know more information about free cash levels, as well as new growth, and receipts before locking in additions to the budget.
"It is kind of a moving goalpost ... in respect to the levy limit," he said. "It gives us a baseline ... there are some building blocks that are important to have in front of everybody."
Much of the conversation centralized around the structure of the budget and the consolidation of line items. The two boards also agreed to a flat 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase to positions in which the town was not considering more substantial increases, such as the Fire and Police Department salaries that are below the regional average.
Tremblay did ask for more information before locking in a proposed increase for police officers that would bring their hourly rate up to $19.
This was also the case for proposed capital projects and expenditures. Tremblay asked for more information on all proposed expenditures from new Department of Public Works equipment to a dishwasher for the Council on Aging.
He said it was important to prioritize items noting that some could potentially wait for a less complicated budgeting year.
Tremblay also touched on new assistant positions for the treasurer/ tax collector and the town clerk. He felt to include these in the budget, he would need to see a job description.
"Is this the year to add new positions?" he said. "If so do you just want to do one and work the bugs out?"
Tremblay also wanted more information and a proposed $10,000 allocation to Adams Ambulance to help offset its costs.
Adams Ambulance parks an ambulance in Cheshire to cut down on response times.
Tremblay and Selectman Ronald DeAngelis wanted a breakdown of what assurances this would provide Cheshire.
Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said she has heard that because of budget concerns, the ambulance is considering pulling out of Cheshire. This creates a more immediate issue.
The two boards agreed to continue discussing the budget at future meetings.
"I think if we can continue to hammer out what needs to be taken care of," Francesconi said. "We will be good to go."