Inside Winchester



Table of Contents

Winchester--Village and Town
Statistical Summary
Elections
Town Meeting
Town Government
Town Manager
Community Programs
Health Services
Town Finance
Planning, Zoning, and Building
Schools
The Public Library

TOWN FINANCES

The Budgetary Process

Timing of budget preparation is framed by the fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. The Charter specifies that the Town Manager submit a proposed budget to the Finance Committee by February 15. That committee holds at least one public hearing before submitting a proposed budget to Town Meeting Members. The May Town Meeting votes the budget.

The Town Manager is the chief financial officer of the Town. The Manager prepares for publication in a local newspaper a general summary of the budget and notice of where copies are available. Copies of the budget are sent to each Town Meeting Member. The Manager's budget message explains requests for all agencies, both in fiscal terms and in terms of work programs. The budget provides explains requests for all agencies, both is fiscal terms and in terms of work programs The budget provides a complete financial plan of all funds and activities, including the requests of the School Committee.

Because of the February 15 deadline it is necessary for the School Committee to formulate its budget early in the school year. The Committee publishes in a local newspaper its fiscal proposals at least 30 days before taking a final vote; a public hearing is held 7 to 15 days later.

As the school budget annually comprises 50% or more of the Town budget, it is not surprising that these procedures are built into the Charter and by-laws in order to grant townspeople the opportunity to influence public expenditure. Town Meeting has final vote on appropriations, but long before that every taxpayer has a chance to voice an opinion.

The budget which the Finance Committee recommends to Town Meeting is accompanied by a report stating the reasons for committee support, as well as the committee's recommendations pertaining to all Warrant articles which involve the expenditure of Town funds; copies are sent to Town Meeting Members.

An important aspect of the budget is the Capital Improvement Program, submitted to the Selectmen and the Finance Committee by the Town Manager at least 30 days before submission of the proposed operating budget. The Capital Improvement Program is developed by the Town Manager and a capital planning committee; it covers school needs and public works as well as other improvements, projected for six years and revised annually.

Sources of Income

As a tax levy, personal property and real estate taxes are the Town's main sources of income. Other revenue and general receipts are motor vehicle excises, assessments for street, sidewalk, and sewer construction fees, permits, licenses, water and sewer use fees, interest from invested funds, school athletic programs, interest charges, and court fines.

Federal and state moneys are received for the Public Library, veterans' benefits, schools, school lunch, and school building programs. The state allocates funds to Winchester from the personal income tax, the corporation tax, the sales tax, meals tax, and funds accrued by the state lottery. The federal government contributes to certain school programs and provides funds for direct use by the Town under federal revenue sharing programs.

Winchester collects a substantial amount from the motor vehicle excise tax. That rate is currently fixed at 2.5% per thousand valuation.

Bills go out throughout the year as they are received from the Registry of Motor Vehicles; failure to pay within the allotted time can carry penalties up to withdrawal of registration. Real estate and personal property is assessed as of January 1. The major part of personal property is levied on the public utilities operating in Winchester , and upon the stock in trade of unincorporated businesses.

Administration

Officers and committees handling the financial operations of the Town are the Selectmen, the Town Manager, The Finance Committee, the Board of Assessors, the Comptroller, the Treasurer-Collector, the Town Clerk, and the Commissioners of Trust Funds, as well as the School Committee cited above.

Finance Committee

The Committee is made up of fifteen members appointed by a committee of three; the Moderator, the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and the Chairman of the Finance Committee. Members serve for overlapping terms of three years, without salary. The Committee is divided into sub-committee, each composed of three or four members. Each subcommittee is responsible for studying the budgets of several departments assigned to it and for conferring with the heads of these departments. After carefully examining the Town Manager's proposed budget and the special articles in the warrant, the Finance Committee draws up its report and recommendations to be printed and distributed to Town Meeting members and certain officials by the Town Clerk. It is the Finance Committee's recommended budget which is voted by Town Meeting. The final authority for voting appropriations rests with Town Meeting Members, who may follow the committee's recommendations or may change them in the form of amendment or substitution.

Finance Committee members participate in collective bargaining proceedings as observers.

The Tax Assessors

Winchester has one full-time Assistant Assessor/Appraiser and three elected Assessors, who are non-salaried officials, supervised by the state Commission on Taxation. Their job i s to appraise real and personal property, and to compute the tax rate for each year. property in Winchester was last appraised in January, 1983 After Town Meeting has voted the budget, the Assessors know the total of planned expenditures and the estimated receipts and available funds for the coming year. After all items of income (other than property taxes) have been subtracted from expected total expenditures, the remainder is the amount to be raised through real estate and personal property taxes. The local rate is set by the following formula:

Tax Rate on $1,00 = Amount to be raised/valuation of real and personal property

The result multiplied by 1,000 gives the official tax rate per $1,000.00 property valuation for the Town. The amount to be raised may not exceed 2.5% of assessed value.

Any taxpayer may appeal his or her property assessment by asking the Board of Assessors to review it. If their decision is unsatisfactory, appeal may be taken to the County Commissioners and on to the State Appellate Tax Board.

Tax bills are payable thirty days after receipt, customarily on November 1 and May 1.

Town Comptroller

A salaried appointee of the Selectmen, The Comptroller keeps records of appropriations, expenditures, and receipts. The Town Comptroller submits to the Town Manager warrants for the payment of all bills, payrolls, taxes, and assessments found to be correct. The TC audits the payrolls, taxes, and assessments found to be correct. The TC audits the books and accounts of all officers, boards, departments, committees, and commissions of the Town, establishes standard practices related to accounting matters, and is responsible for a continuous audit of all accounting matters, and is responsible for a continuous audit of all accounts and records of the Town. By statute, the Comptroller reviews and has custody of all Town contracts.

The Comptroller is responsible for the administration of the employee group insurance plan. The TC also serves as advisor to various agencies and offices: the Board of Selectmen, office of the Town manager, Finance Committee, Insurance Committee, Retirement Board, Methods and procedures Committee, the Board of Assessors and the Planning Board.

Treasurer-Collector of Taxes

This official is appointed by the Town Manager for a one-year term, with salary the Treasurer has custody of all Town funds, trust funds, and retirement funds. The Treasurer makes all disbursements for the Town on warrants prepared and reviewed by the Comptroller and approved by the Manager. The Treasurer also manages all investments and all funds, and negotiates all loans. As Collector of Taxes, the Treasurer collects all assessments, taxes, and all other accounts.

Commissioner of Trust Funds

These three officials, appointed by the Selectmen direct the Treasurer as to the investment of various funds left to the Town over the years. They serve three-year terms, without salary.

Data Processing

Equipment is in place for all departments,, and each department is responsible for its own system.

Funds and Accounts

In making the annual tax levy, the Assessors allow a certain margin to take care of tax abatements. This is called the Overlay Reserve, and lasts until all tax bills of that year are collected. Any excess funds from the fund are periodically transferred to the Overlay Surplus, as that there is never more in the Overlay Reserve than there is in uncollected taxes..

Stabilization Fund is the Town savings account, in effect. It was established to help pay for capital improvements, which are bondable. To take funds from this account requires a two-third vote of Town Meeting.

The Reserve Fund is annually appropriated by Town Meeting in order to have moneys on hand for unforeseen purposes. The Finance Committee may vote the transfer of funds from Reserve to various departments if such situations occur.

The Excess and Deficiency Account is a general surplus revenue account. It is made up of unexpected balances, underestimated receipts, and non recurring income. Only Town Meeting may vote the use of funds from surplus.

Town Debt

For large capital expenditures, the Town must borrow. State law limits the amount to 5% of the most recent "equalized" valuation established by the state Tax Commissioner. Under special circumstances, such as the pressing need for a new school building, the state will permit towns to borrow additional money outside of the debt limit. Winchester has a Triple A bond rating, permitting it to borrow at very low rates.

Support of State, County, Regional, and Metropolitan Districts

In addition to appropriations for local expenditures, Winchester must pay a share of costs of other government units. A county tax is levied in proportion to the Town's assessed valuation to help cover the cost of county government, the county hospitals, the county's share of construction, and for maintenance of certain roads.

An annual bill is paid to the state for a part of the Town water supply, for sewage disposal, and for a share of the expenses of the Metropolitan District Commission's park system. Winchester shares in the expenses of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Mystic Valley Mental Health Association, the Northeastern Regional Vocational School, the educational consortium SEEM, The Central Middlesex Association for Retarded Citizens, and Tri-Community Health Services, Inc. Moneys are also expended for certain special education costs, and state wards.

The Cherry Sheet (State Aid and Assessments)

The Cherry Sheet takes its name from the color of paper on which it is printed. It is issued annually to the Assessors by the State Tax Commission. It contains an estimate of the charges the Town will be required to pay for metropolitan assessments, It also contains an estimate of the funds the Town will receive from the State.


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