ESSEX — The proposed budget for the town of Essex tops $15 million, with more than $6 million allotted for education and more than $1 million devoted to paying the town's debt.
The budget breakdown, available in the Finance Committee's report that can be found in the selectmen's office, covers the $15,611,137 being requested at Town Meeting, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. May 7 at Essex Elementary School.
The meeting follows by just three weeks Special Town Meeting, set for this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Essex Elementary School, though that meeting will deal exclusively with Conomo Point issues and a renewed proposal to seek an exemption to state bidding laws in the sale of Point properties.
According to the projections, Essex will need to raise $11,437,829 via local taxation to cover the budget, a 3.3 percent increase from spending for this year, which runs through June 30. The new spending and revenue figure, to be augmented by state aid and other outside funding, also matches the precise levy limit imposed by tax-limiting Proposition 21/2.
In order to remain under the limit, the Finance Committee trimmed $71,970 from the initial requests by town departments. The Finance Committee is also recommending the town use $266,000 from the general free cash fund, emptying it of all but $466.
As comprehensive as the report is, the tax rate estimate of $15.22 for every $1,000 of assessed property value does not include any costs that could be incurred in the purchasing of a new Town Hall or in renovating the existing one.
"This topic is very much in flux and will be shaped by decisions to be made by the Town Meeting," the report says.
In its list of capital projects, the Finance Committee recommends the town approve $1 million to purchase a new Town Hall, rather than simply repairing the existing one. At the last Town Meeting, held in November, town officials argued that it would be less expensive to purchase a new building than to repair the old one, but the proposal was shot down.
The Financial Committee is also recommending $100,000 dedicated just to legal expenses relating to Conomo Point. If a Chapter 30b exemption is not approved by the Special Town Meeting on Wednesday that number may grow.
The Finance Committee's report acknowledges that the revenue from the increased rents levied on Conomo Point tenants offers one of the largest increases in town revenue, but cautions against using the revenue for the general operating budget.
The Conomo Point revenue is estimated to be just over $700,000 in fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1.
Right now, the Finance Committee is asking for the Conomo Point revenue to be used to fund one-time expenses relating to Conomo Point, such as paying for a consultant to plan properties on northern Conomo Point — Article 3 on the Annual town Meeting warrant).
Stephanie Bergman can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or email@example.com.