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March 20, 2013

Danvers budget tops $100 million

Health care, pension costs have gone up; state aid uncertain

DANVERS — The town’s budget has inched over the $100 million mark.

The schools, town and library seek modest increases for fiscal year 2014 as officials grapple with increased health care and pension costs and uncertainty about state aid.

The increase for the schools is 3.1 percent, the municipal side is asking for a 2.2 percent more, and the library is requesting a 2.6 percent hike, Town Manager Wayne Marquis and Assistant Town Manager Diane Norris said Monday. (The budget figure does not take into account the $45 million for Electric Division operations, which are funded by its ratepayers.)

“It gets the job done,” Marquis said. “The services people expect in Danvers will get delivered with this budget.”

Marquis said the budget was “fiscally conservative,” containing no layoffs to full-time staff and no proposals for fee-for-service programs. In 2009, the town eliminated two police officer and two firefighter positions in a round of belt-tightening, and in the past several years, 10 positions have been cut from the general government through attrition.

This year, the budget absorbs $1.9 million in debt service for the Danvers High project. This number will go down in future years, Marquis and Norris said, as the town has passed its peak year debt payment for the nearly $71 million project this year.

While borrowing costs are slowly declining, the town is seeing a jump in employee health care premiums of 5.5 percent.

“It does not appear likely we will be able to reduce the increase,” Marquis said.

The town has budgeted nearly $10.9 million for employee benefits/insurance in fiscal 2014, up from $10.6 million in the present fiscal year.

Last year, the town switched its health care from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Tufts, and officials were hoping for a more modest increase this year. Some large claims in the initial months of the contract may have skewed the data that went into figuring rates, Norris said.

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