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Bedford council to unveil 'conservative' $26.6M plan

BEDFORD — The Town Council will present a proposed $26.6 million operating budget, in addition to a $30 million road bond and $4.4 million bond to build a fire substation, to voters in March.

The proposed budget will be brought to public hearings on Jan. 8 and Feb. 12, at 7 p.m., at the BCTV meeting room, 10 Meetinghouse Road. The Feb. 12 public hearing will include a discussion of the two bonds and, if approved by the council, the bonds will appear on the March 11 ballot. The Budgetary Town Meeting is Wednesday, March 12.

The operating budget includes general fund appropriations for administration, fire, police and public works, which account for about 93 percent of town expenditures; operational funds that are self-supporting through user fees have no impact on the tax rate. For 2014, the budget includes $48,000 in special revenues such as planning board fees and recreation impact fees; and operational funds amounting to $434,587 for police details, $99,025 for recreation day camps, $407,659 for BCTV and $920,000 for the sewer fund.

During budget discussions, the Town Council added a second patrol officer position at $53,842. This position and other revenue offsets such as increased motor vehicle registrations, an increase in meals and rooms tax sharing from the state, minimal health insurance increases and capital purchases, has brought the budget to $26.6 million.

"People have been registering cars like crazy," said Levine at the Dec. 4 Town Council meeting.

Town Council's proposed budget would result in a tax rate increase of 2 cents, which is less than one-half percent above the 2013 town tax rate of $4.97 per $1,000 of property valuation. Levine said the proposed budget is "progressive and unremarkable."

"On the one hand, this is a rather unexciting budget. We were able to address the town's immediate concerns and even some growth-related needs with very little pain. On the other hand, given the voter approval that we will seek for a major road reconstruction bond and for the South River Road fire substation, this is the best time to bring forward a conservative operating budget," said Levine.

During the public hearings, the council will also consider changes to the Tax Increment Finance District on South River Road and repeal of a town ordinance requiring Sunday business license fees, which could result in lowering the tax rate by 3 cents, Levine said.

The Town Council will seek a 10-year bond for the fire substation and a 15-year bond for road repairs and maintenance.

Levine said the estimated taxpayer cost would peak in 2019, with $1.35 per $1,000 property valuation for the fire station and road bonds, and $1.06 for the 15-year road bond repayment.The road bond would not go into effect until 2015 because the town still has some money to spend from the $13.2 infrastructure bond approved by voters in 2011. The council agreed to spread the road repairs over a 15-year bond because the tax impact would be lower each year. The council recommends a 10-year bond on the fire station because the amount is too low to spread out further because of expenses and fees.

Rights of way expansions and proper maintenance and drainage would result in lower costs 10 to 15 years from now, he said.

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