Marion budget presented to Selectmen

Feb 2, 2021

MARION — School expenses, the Benson Brook Transfer Station and water revenue highlighted conversation about the town’s budget at a Feb. 2 Selectmen’s meeting. 

Town administrator Jay McGrail and Town Accountant Judy Mooney presented an unbalanced budget to the Selectmen, which detailed a small budget increase for the 2022 fiscal year. 

Despite the bump, the budget increase remains lower than 2019’s increase of nearly 6%. 

“Even with a bump at about 3.1 we’re still down from where we were,” McGrail said. 

According to the budget, around 80% of the town’s revenues will come from the tax levy, 4% will come from state aid, 1% from free cash, 3% from debt exclusion related to projects at Sippican School and the police station, and 7% will come from local receipts like licenses, permits and ambulance fees. 

Notably, revenue from Benson Brook was not included in the budget — and officials said the goal for its first year of operation under Marion is to simply break even. 

“The revenue from Benson Brook is something new for us, and we definitely need it this year,” McGrail said. 

Selectman John Waterman added that this is a transition year for the station, and projections for revenues at Benson Brook will likely be updated in the years to come. 

“There’s some uncertainty in the numbers,” he said. 

Selectmen also fretted about the budget for Sippican school, as enrollment has begun to fall in recent years. 

Normally when enrollment drops, it’s reflected in the budget for the respective town in the Old Rochester Regional School District. But as officials noted at the meeting, the enrollment has been falling in all three towns, which has led to little change in the budget. 

“We just need to get our arms around the trend long-term,” Waterman said, adding that if enrollment continues to decline, the town has to find a way to respond appropriately in the budget. 

The issue is likely to come up at a joint budget meeting between the Marion School Committee and Selectmen later this month.

“They’ll be in here, John, so we can ask those questions,” McGrail said. 

Another point of interest for the Selectmen was water revenues from the town, which increased dramatically last summer, when the town experienced a heightened population due to the pandemic. 

“We shouldn’t use last year’s [numbers] because we definitely won’t have the same usage,” Waterman said. 

Usage over the summer increased by over 30%, which coupled with a raise in the water rate.

“It’s a big swing factor, 30%,” Waterman said.  

But McGrail noted that the budget is essentially calculated based on numbers from two years prior. 

As it sits, the budget has a $175,000 deficit, according to Mooney. The town will continue to work to balance the budget in future meetings.