Committee Discusses Funding Shortfall
By Tara Hughes
Oct 14, 2023 - The Capital Planning Committee (CPC) met on Wednesday evening with most of the meeting dedicated to discussing and editing their report to Town Meeting. The report contains a portion of the Town Manager’s list of anticipated projects for the next five years (to see the full list go here: https://www.winchester.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/4609?fileID=13988), which have been ranked by the CPC. A prominent issue is that many projects, while necessary, don’t have a readily available funding source. Recent projects have been funded by the American Rescue Plan Action (ARPA) that has helped, but that source will at some point soon no longer be available.
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CPC member and FinCom Chair John Miller said he believes that more resources are needed in the town manager’s office-including staff, equipment and software to better support capital projects. He also wants to see construction estimates and potential funding sources put forward when looking for engineering and design funds in order for the Finance Committee to do better projections. It would also help create a long-term financial plan for capital funding that integrates ARPA, free cash, debt-exclusion override(s) and potentially the Community Preservation Act (CPA) property tax surcharge, if approved by the town. Right now, funding is lacking.
The CPC chair, Jimmy Johnson, is reluctant to put forth design and engineering plan funding requests without the Select Board (SB) having identified clear funding sources for projects. They may even pull some current requests if a funding source is not clear, saying it would be a waste of money to fund a design and engineering plan if a project can’t go forward or is delayed significantly
After some heated discussions SB member John Fallon indicated his commitment to champion more funding for capital projects and will push the Select Board to sponsor a capital override.
The CPC members agreed that the town’s reliance on property taxes due to its small commercial/industrial tax base is a problem, but that that is not changing. Miller said the town needs a better five-year plan to find solutions to the funding problem.
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