The annual town budget will be developed over the next few months and key components of the process are already well underway. The Board of Finance approval and submission of a budget to the Town for a vote is the final step to a long process that includes significant work from various town departments and boards. This includes department heads and their associated commissions, the Board of Selectmen, school administration and the Board of Education, among others. Late in the fall, the various budgets are developed and go through a process of review and modification until they are ultimately submitted to the Board of Finance.
The Board of Finance will begin their weekly reviews beginning in late February through April, at which point, a Town Public Hearing will be held. This is a meeting where the proposed budget is presented and the Town’s citizens can ask questions to inform their understanding in advance of the formal Town Meeting to vote on the budget. This year, that Public Hearing and subsequent Town Meeting are tentatively planned for April 19 and May 3, respectively. These dates will be finalized by the Board of Selectmen as we conclude the development of the budget.
Like in other years, key areas of the budget will be the change in operating budgets and their drivers, capital spending on facilities or town equipment and the status of state revenues which represent over 20% of our total revenues. As we come out of COVID, there were Federal funds allocated to Suffield, some of which were spent in last year’s budget. This will again factor into the upcoming budget as a non-recurring item. The Boards of Finance, Selectmen and Education as well as departments have worked hard to soften the impact of COVID and extraordinary inflationary pressures over the last few years by keeping taxes down. We have leveraged our undesignated fund balance (or “rainy-day” fund) in part to do this. Some of our various tools to manage tax increases will be more limited in the upcoming budget, but rest assured that the Boards and town departments will be focused on ensuring Suffield gets the maximum value for their tax dollars.
I would like to thank all those involved from the departments, boards and commissions for their engagement in the budget process. Much of this work is after hours and on a volunteer basis, so people should thank their fellow citizens for their support in this process. Please plan to attend the Town Hearing to learn about the upcoming budget and inform your vote.