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ON CANTON FINANCE COMMITTEE'S HORIZON

 

Schools Space 1: The Hansen modular classrooms have aged past their useful lives and must be replaced. When four classrooms were added at the JFK in FY12, the cost was approximately $1.2 million and included required sprinkler upgrades for the rest of the building. The School Building Study Committee and the Finance Committee have recommended the funding of a Design Study this year. The construction is not currently part of the school's capital plan but will likely need to be addressed in FY16 or FY17 via a debt exclusion override.

 

 Schools Space 2: New residential developments have and will continue to create a space crunch in our current elementary schools. To address this issue, the School Building Study Committee was formed at the 2013 Town Meeting. The purpose of the School Building Study Committee is to assess the current school building facilities and to determine the extent to which they meet the educational needs of the district and whether they will be sufficient in future years. If the committee’s finding is that they will not, this Committee is asked to make a specific recommendation as to how the future educational space needs of the district might be met. This could include an additional elementary school.

 

School Budget: Each year the Schools face many challenges from a budgetary standpoint. Their contract costs often rise at a rate greater than 2.5%. They also face many State mandated expenses which increase their operating needs, the most significant and volatile of which is Special Education which can run as much as $250,000 per student per year. If our conservative projections for FY16’s revenue materialize, the projected increase to the School budget for FY16 may not be enough to cover their increased contract costs, let alone any new State mandates or educational enhancements.

 

  OPEB: Canton has made promises to its employees to not only provide pensions upon retirement, but also various types of insurance. While the Town has been setting aside money to pay pension benefits for many years, we only started setting aside money for these Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) at 2012’s town meeting with the establishment of the OPEB Trust fund. The unfunded liability for these benefits is currently over $100,000,000 and the Finance Committee recommended placing only $551,000 into this fund for FY15. At this time, the State has not taken steps to address this issue. At some point in the future, the State may change the rules around OPEB, reducing our liability, but at the same time, requiring us to fully fund the liability. While putting aside some money now will put us in a better financial situation than surrounding communities, the annual cost will likely be substantial.

 

Storm Water Management: The Town of Canton has an investment of over $100,000,000 in the municipal separate storm water system [MS4]. As owners and operators of the MS4 system, the Town is subject to the current [2003 – 2008] and expected [Summer 2013] EPA General Permit. Compliance with the permit is predicated on water quality and not just hydraulic flow. The new MS4 permit is expected to require significant new funding needs to achieve water quality stipulations. For Canton, EPA estimates the administrative costs alone at $100,000 per year. The new MS4 permit will require Canton to identify the means through which the storm water management program will be funded on an adequate and sustainable basis.

 

 Roads: Canton has traditionally relied on Chapter 90 grants (about $1 million per year) from the State in order to repair our road system. Unfortunately, this funding has been insufficient and our roads have deteriorated. Our last road study suggested that $24 million was needed simply to bring our roads up to a C+ grade. Unless there is a significant increase in Chapter 90 funding, Canton will need to begin investing our dollars into maintaining our roadways by including it in our Capital Plan.

 

 Fire Department:  As development continues throughout the Town, especially in eastern sections, the need for a third fire station grows.  Though this is not currently in the capital plans for the Town, it will likely need to be addressed in the coming years.