Message From The Chair

Happy New Year Billerica,

I have had the good fortune of serving as a selectman for 18 months, and as the chairman of the Board since April.
You recently received your tax bills, which is often a time where we wonder "what did I get for my money?" and "Is
my town being managed in an efficient and professional fashion?
" During the campaign held 18 months ago, I
asked the question "Are we winning and what does winning look like?"  We have made excellent progress in many
areas. I believe we are winning, and after reading this letter, I hope you agree that you are receiving good value for
your hard earned tax dollars.

This "letter from the chairman" is intended to provide you with a summary of some of the areas we have
addressed and to add some fun facts about our town that you may be unaware of. I've long said that we have a
great town and we do not do enough to extol our virtues, so please consider this letter as my small contribution of
expressing pride in our town.

Many of you may be aware that the political landscape in Billerica has been historically divided, and local politics
was considered a contact sport. Frankly, this type of environment has not easily allowed for a respectful exchange
of ideas or fostered a collaborative environment. Thus, a significant amount of time and effort has been made
regarding relationship building and communication, within our elected and appointed leadership teams, our town
officials, the local business community, and the local media. I believe the current landscape is much improved, and
our ability to openly exchange ideas and have healthy disagreement is one of the most impactful contributions of
the current board, and our town manager. The board has held numerous "work shop" type of meetings where we
have developed solutions in the areas of affordable housing, developed a plan to complete sewer, and create the
funding plan for the new high school. In addition, earlier in 2015, all chairs, from each and every board and
commission, held a meeting to ensure we are all working toward the same goals. In March, the Board of Selectmen
and school committee plan to hold our first joint meeting.

There are several accomplishments worthy of some added context; here is the "top ten" list:

1. The average increase of residential tax bill over the last 5 years has been just $87.12, with 2015 actually
having a tax bill decrease. I am particularly proud to cite a 5 year average as this demonstrates we are
doing particularly well in managing our spending. In fact, during the same time frame, annual spending on
the town side (excluding school expenses which are managed by the school committee) is significantly
less than the annual rate of inflation. Our town manager, John Curran continues to be one of the best at
long term, financial planning.

2. The financial health of our town is excellent. We have a AA+ bond rating and have over $16.3 million in
cash reserves. From 2013 to 2016 our commercial tax revenue has increased by over $7 million dollars,
which has allowed us to manage annual residential tax increases significantly better than surrounding
towns. Special thanks to Town Accountant Paul Watson and Treasurer John Clark.

3. We continue to invest in our infrastructure and asset maintenance. In fact, over the next year alone, we
will invest $21.5 Million dollars, all while managing our tax increases to historic lows. Among the specific
projects are a $6.2 million dollar project to update Boston Road that begins this spring, and the repaving
of Allen Road that continues through next summer. Special thanks to town Engineer Kelley Conway.

4. Last year, the board directed the hire of our first full time economic development coordinator, Rob
Anderson. Over the summer Rob engaged The Dukakis Center for Urban and regional policy at
Northeastern University to examine our current economic development process. We received a report in
the fall that was mainly favorable, but also identified areas in which we can improve, of which the most
notable was the length of time associated with permitting. Accordingly, Rob, town manager John Curran,
and the board have aligned a series of steps required to improve our current processes, and have
incorporated them in our 2016 town objectives. Toward that end, we have already produced a series of
videos that markets Billerica to perspective commercial partners. The series is on the town web site and I
have posted it to my selectman's Facebook page. I had the opportunity to participate in the introduction.
Check it out. It really casts a great light on our town.

5. Chris Reilly has joined as the new director of planning, and is off to a fast start. A committee has just
completed an update to the town's long term master plan. I had the opportunity to chair the committee,
who did an excellent job in having multiple public input sessions and questionnaires, and incorporated the
feedback in the final document that will be presented later this winter. Our new town planner and
economic development coordinator have already started to work together to ensure that zoning and
economic development efforts are mutually aligned and beneficial. Later this spring, they will present the
board with opportunities to improve economic development that require zoning changes. It is this type of
unified, collaborative approach that will help ensure we reach our aggressive economic development
objectives in the future.

6. For years Billerica has struggled with unscrupulous developers forcing unwanted 40B developments.
Developing a plan to reach 10% affordable housing, which is required to be able to stop this practice,
continues to be a major focus for the board. We now have a comprehensive plan in place to achieve this
goal. As developments that have been approved by the board reach the permitting stage, we will receive
"protection" from the state, known as "safe harbor", protects us from continued 40B development as we
continue to demonstrate progress toward the goal of 10% affordable housing. This protection is expected
to occur this year.

7. Pedestrian safety continues to be a major focus area of the board. We have completed safety
improvement programs in the center as well as the Micozzi Beach area, which include the installation of
pedestrian crossway lighting. Additionally, to ensure our crosswalks are always visible, the board recently
adopted a policy to convert all of the town's cross walks from painted-on to a heat transfer process that
lasts significantly longer. This project begins next summer.

8. Due to the efforts of the compost committee, a local contractor is now offering free compost, available at
the DPW site on Boston Road, free to all residents.

9. Did you know that the Town of Billerica owns almost 1100 acres of open space and that there are an
additional 550 conservation acres owned by the state? In just the past year, the board of selectmen has
accepted land donations of more than 50 acres.

10. A $2.3 million dollar Town Hall facade and window project is nearing completion, with the final landscape
installation slated for the spring. If you have not driven by, it's worth a look. Special thanks for Building
Commissioner Mark LaLumiere for his outstanding work!

Before closing, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the contributions of Abdul Alkhatib and the DPW staff,
particularly in light of last year's historic winter. As well, we are very fortunate to have among the highest
rated police, fire, and emergency medical teams in the state, which includes an award winning social media
program. Kudos to Chief Rosa (police) and Chief Conway (fire) and their teams.

As we work to the conclusion of the current fiscal year (our year is July 1-June 30) our focus areas will be
infrastructure improvements, economic development, improving the use of social media, progressing the bike
path, developing a solution to retiree unfunded medical benefits (OPEB), and the completion of the 2017
budget in preparation for May's town meeting. All said, our most important priority is to ensure we have a
successful vote on March 5th, when we ask the people of Billerica to support the construction of a new grade 8-
12 high school. There are dozens of public information sessions now scheduled, so please be sure to vote.

Prior to becoming a selectman, I remarked that if I was fortunate enough to be elected, that it would be the
greatest honor ever bestowed upon me. Since then, I have had the privilege to serve, and since April to serve
as Chairman. I believe that success is a result of good planning and good people, and I believe we have both.
Please note that as chair, I send this note on behalf of the entire board, our town Manager John Curran, and
the entire leadership team at town hall. I am blessed to work with such a talented, collaborative group. In
closing, I have never been as excited about our future as a town.

All the best for 2016,

Piscatelli Signature

John Piscatelli
Chairman, Board of Selectmen