Dartmouth Officials See Budget Problems In The Future
With new revenue growth in Dartmouth projected to drop from $1.4 million in 2016 to $494,000 in 2017, town officials are banking on conservative spending to get through.
During Monday's joint Select Board meeting with the Finance and School committees, officials voiced concerns over expenses in town growing faster than revenue.
The $1,379,845 in new growth Dartmouth saw in 2016 was a record for the town according to Selectman Stanley Mickelson, mostly coming from major projects including two solar farms, the Hawthorn medical facility, and the Southcoast Behavioral Health facility on Faunce Corner Road.
Selectman Frank Gracie says while Dartmouth is in better financial shape than other communities, something still has to be done before it's too late.
"We really need to figure out, collectively, how all areas of this town can learn how to be more efficient while we're also doing things like trying to increase revenue. Because otherwise, it's just a disaster waiting to happen," Gracie says.
Many Capital Improvement projects will take a back seat this year because of funding. While the town would like to work on the Tucker Road relocation, Padanaram sidewalks, and even a new turf field at Dartmouth's stadium, officials say these issues will have to wait.
In the meantime, a new $3.5 million roof for the Dartmouth Middle School will go a long way toward keeping the building around.
The town also has funding to fix the Padanaram Bridge, however officials say the Padanaram causeway project is holding it back. Bids for the causeway came back around $2 million over-budget, forcing MassDOT to re-bid the project in hopes of lower costs a second time around.
The state wants to take $342,000 from the bridge project to put towards the causeway, however Chairman Shawn McDonald says those funds were specifically earmarked for work on the Padanaram and Little River bridges.
Funding for Dartmouth schools is another growing concern for town officials.
Town Administrator David Cressman says although the schools have done well with their budget situation, state aid through Chapter 70 hasn't increased much in nearly 10 years.
"In many ways, we are on our own," Cressman says on the school budget.
McDonald wants to organize a meeting with state officials to discuss more potential aid coming to Dartmouth.