AYER -- Selectmen and the Finance Committee jointly groomed the fiscal 2015 budget Tuesday night, with the latest budget expenses totaling about $24.7 million.
The public gave little input as the two boards settled on an increase in the operating budget of 5.4 percent. Excluding a one-time expenditure for about $52,000 in free cash and the new positions for a fire-prevention employee and a town engineer, the total operating increase is 3.52 percent.
The boards split a surplus of $673,000 between funding for Other Post-Employment Benefits, now set at $300,000, and the stabilization fund, now holding $823,000.
The budget includes a 2 percent salary increase for the treasurer, town clerk, tax collector and tree-warden positions.
The $75,000 daytime position in the Fire Department, as well as the $70,000 town-engineer position, will need to be approved by voters at town meeting.
The new position in the fire department was initially discussed as a deputy fire chief, but Chief Robert Pedrazi explained that the position has not yet been labeled as union or non-union. The cost of a union position, he said, would be slightly less than a non-union deputy chief.
Snow removal is set at an increase of about $46,000, partially because of the increase in roads that the town keeps formally accepting, and which the town must therefore take responsibility for.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Wetzel estimated eight plowing events next year.
Town Accountant Lisa Gabree estimated a 3.5 percent increase in state aid from last fiscal year, and an 8.6 percent increase in taxes. After the roughly $1.2 million in free cash to be proposed at this year's Town Meeting, the town is left with $497,796 in free cash.
Selectmen also voted 3-1 to set the cost-of-living adjustment for non-union employees at a 2 percent increase, and not the 2.5 percent suggested by the personnel board.
The numbers, to be presented as part of the omnibus budget at Town Meeting, are not final, as any discrepancies between Finance Committee and the town accountant still need to be worked out.
The 38-article warrant list includes the roughly $9 million portion of Ayer's assessment for the school district. Debt exclusion for the high-school building project is also requested at about $1 milion.
The Finance Committee withheld issuing a recommendation on the article requesting about $2.8 million for the Accelerated Roof Repair project at Nashoba Valley Technical High School because it had not seen the information.
One article asks if residents would like to use an unexpended balance of $45,036 for a water-meter radio-read system. Another article will potentially ask voters whether to establish an OPEB trust fund with the state, after selectmen heard the benefits of investing with the State Retiree Benefits Trust Fund.
Follow Amelia on Twitter and Tout @AmeliaPakHarvey.