By Prudence Brighton
DRACUT -- Town Manager Jim Duggan has submitted a preliminary budget of $79.7 million for the fiscal 2020 to the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee. This amount reflects a 2.4 percent increase from the fiscal 2019 budget.
The budget, as presented, is balanced and keeps services at the same level as this year's budget.
In his budget message, Duggan highlighted several factors that helped to shape his budget proposal.
He noted that town and regional economic conditions have shown some improvement. Construction associated with the improvement has resulted in some growth in revenues.
The cost of employee benefits is a big contributor to the fiscal 2020 budget. The benefits package includes a county retirement system, a Medicare matching program, and health-care benefits. The town's assessment for the county retirement system will increase a little over 11 percent in the coming year.
The budget calls for an increase of 1.6 percent over the current year.
The town is moving all town employees who use Dracut health to the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association. Duggan said the town wants to continue with a "sustainable" model for the health care of town employees for active and retired employees.
The three principal, and perhaps most important, employee benefits the top provides are a retirement plan through the Middlesex County Retirement System, group health benefits, life and dental insurance program, and the Medicare Matching Program.
The town has moved to a new insurance plan operated by the MIIA must focus on reducing its unfunded liability The state has set an fiscal 2038 deadline for reducing the liability to zero, Duggan's report said. In January 2016, this liability stood at $60 million. The town has made progress toward this goal.
Because this is Dracut's first year with the MIIA, the town received a very competitive rate which Duggan hopes will continue, enabling an economic sustainability model.
The revenue for the fiscal 2020 budget comes from these sources: property taxes (property), state aid, local receipts, and fund transfers. The town is estimated to receive $57 million from taxes, $21 million in state aid. $1.2 million in local receipts, and $340,801 in fund transfers.