Barrington budget: Spend, spend, spend

Increased spending off-set by more state aid to schools

By Josh Bickford
Posted 6/10/21

Stephen Primiano has found a simple way to describe Barrington’s budget this year: The tax levy is going down, but spending is going up.

The chairman of the town’s Committee on …

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Barrington budget: Spend, spend, spend

Increased spending off-set by more state aid to schools

Posted

Stephen Primiano has found a simple way to describe Barrington’s budget this year: The tax levy is going down, but spending is going up.

The chairman of the town’s Committee on Appropriations said the spending is going way up, in fact. The operating budget for the municipal government (public works department, police, fire, public library, etc.) is projected to increase by 4.51 percent. The school department’s operating budget is expected to increase by 4.28 percent. 

In total dollars, the two budgets combine for a $3.1 million increase in spending.

Despite the hefty spending increase, Barrington property owners are not expected to see any increase on their tax bills. Mr. Primiano said taxpayers can thank the state’s school funding formula, which will deliver $2.1 million more in aid to Barrington this year. 

“Barrington usually gets peanuts,” Mr. Primiano said, referring to the town’s allotment of state aid for schools. He added that this year, “We got a bigger piece of the pie.”

Mr. Primiano said that when the state’s school funding formula was reworked it shifted more funding to districts based upon the student population — the school departments with the larger student populations receive a larger portion of the funding. 

“Our (student) population is inching up, but a lot of districts dropped off,” Mr. Primiano said. “So we got a bump in school funding…”

Barrington received about $5.9 million in state aid for schools last year, but is projected to receive $8.06 million this year. 

Mr. Primiano said local school officials believe the $2.1 million increase in state aid is not likely to repeat itself in future years; it is more likely that Barrington will continue to receive a similar level of funding — about $8 million — in state aid for schools moving forward.

The proposed budget presented during the Committee on Appropriation’s annual budget hearing last week also showed a drop in debt service for the town. Barrington paid about $8.9 million in debt service last year, but is anticipating debt service payments of $5.8 million next year. (Last year’s larger debt service payment was off-set by an increase in state housing aid.) The school department and municipal government capital budgets are either flat or slightly down this year, and Mr. Primiano also said the town is expected to receive an additional $588,000 in car tax reimbursements from the state. 

The Committee on Appropriations is recommending a budget that includes a slight decrease overall — last year’s total town operations were $82.97 million, while this year’s is projected at $82.93 million.

Barrington taxpayers will be faced with at least two possible amendments to the budget at this year’s financial town meeting. Members of the town council have filed an amendment calling for an additional $500,000 to be added to the budget. That money, councilors said, will be used for affordable housing in town. 

Council member Jacob Brier also filed an amendment to add $250,000 to the town’s Land Acquisition fund, which would be used to purchase the Carmelite Monastery property on Watson Avenue. “The funds represent the maximum annual cost to finance the sale price, to be negotiated by the council or an agent thereof,” Mr. Brier’s amendment stated.

Too much spending?

The Committee on Appropriations chairman said there were some concerns about the spending increases, even though they are being off-set by the increased state aid this year. 

Some of the spending increases are for additional personnel, including two more workers at the department of public works. Those hires will result in reoccurring costs in the budget, but there is no guarantee that the state aid will continue to rise. 

Mr. Primiano said he and some of the COA members voiced concerns about the spending increases and discussed capping the school department’s operating budget increase at 4 percent. At the end of the discussion, three of the five COA members said they would not support limiting the school increase to 4 percent.

Mr. Primiano said it was his opinion that it would not be fair to then limit the municipal government’s increase to 4 percent, if schools were not facing that same cap. 

COA vote

Three seats on the Barrington Committee on Appropriations are up for re-election this month. Three members of the COA — John Alessandro, Cynthia Rosengard and Lisa Daft — have terms that are expiring on June 16 at the financial town meeting. Anyone who is interested in running for a seat on the Committee on Appropriations should contact the Barrington Town Clerk at 247-1900. The Committee on Appropriations is responsible for reviewing the proposed school, municipal and capital budgets and offering recommendations on the budgets. 

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