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Author Topic: LT - Committee Members Want Budget to Reflect Economic Conditions  (Read 1000 times)
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« on: January 04, 2008, 08:42:37 PM »

from the Londonderry Times

Committee Members Want Budget to Reflect Economic Conditions

April Guilmet
Londonderry Times
January 3, 2008


Frustrated with a perceived lack of direction from the Town Council and town manager, the Budget Committee might have to wait until the Jan. 7 Town Council meeting to get some input on the coming fiscal year’s budget.

Budget Committee Chairman Tom Freda said the committee submitted its report on Nov. 26, and he and his fellow committee members have attended most of the council’s budget workshops.

“So far, I think the Town Council hasn’t been sharing with us what they’re planning to do at this point,” Freda said during last week’s Budget Committee meeting. “And I’d like to hear what they have to say before we do anything else.”

For fiscal year 2008, the town had a $25 million operating default budget. “We backed off on debt service changes and added personnel costs, contractual obligations, utilities and fuel,” said Town Manager David Caron. “If Town Meeting approves both bonds this year, then people will look at the budget and see it as a $3 million reduction. It really isn’t.”

Looking at the General Fund, the next fiscal year’s budget is expected to increase in proposed appropriations by $123,000 or .49 percent.

Expenses are expected to increase by $225,000 in wage adjustments due to collective bargaining agreements, while the rising costs of heating, fuel and electricity will cost the town an extra $13,000. However, with a larger portion of employee health insurance coming out of workers’ pockets, thanks to collective bargaining, the town’s health insurance costs are expected to decrease by $162,000.

Committee member John Robinson said he believed the Town Council was working on the budget on a line-by-line basis. “I heard there is a process at work and the process includes hearing out all the input and making recommendations on a line-by-line basis,” he said. “I’m sure that we should give them the benefit of the doubt and see what they come back with.”

A public hearing is scheduled during the Jan. 7 Town Council meeting. Budget Committee member and former Town Council chairman Tom Dolan said he expected to see the preliminary budget adoption then.

Freda said a recent budget workshop was very frustrating, where he didn’t think that current economic issues were being addressed, such as the rising costs of fuel and the slowing real estate market. “Conditions have changed considerably during the past several years,” he emphasized.

Referring to a recent Housing Administration study that foretold continued foreclosures and other credit problems in the New Hampshire market over the next few years, Freda said he was concerned about what he perceives as “the Town Council’s policy to maintain services as is.

“I think we actually have to consider having less services in this town. In my experiences in the real estate market, before you get to bankruptcy and before you get to foreclosure, there are choices,” Freda said. “Frankly, I think there are some services in this town that can be cut without significant effects on people here in town.”

Robinson agreed. “I think that in fiscal times such as we’re in, a town has to operate the same way residents do, meaning doing what we can with money that’s available,” he added.

Dolan suggested asking Caron to do a review of the Town Council’s policies that were driving expenses in the budget. He said an example of this would be changing the town speed limit rather than adopting the state speed limit, which is 35 miles per hour. “But adopting the state limit would be cheaper, when we wouldn’t need to post all new speed limit signs,” he said. “The question is how many of these things have we accumulated over the years.”

Freda said it all comes down to doing more with less.

“We can’t say employees have to work for less but we may legitimately say we don’t need certain staffing or services any longer, and we’ll stand in line longer to save money,” he said. “I think we have to recognize that people out there are hurting, and it’s hard for everybody to sit there in their own household and economize when the town is going to go up this year.”

As a way of raising the town’s revenue, Dolan said he hopes to see more development along the new airport road. “The yet-to-be-developed industrial land we’re hoping is going to lead us into the promised land, I think we’ve all been disappointed that we haven’t been able to develop the property by the airport as quickly,” he said. “It seems we should be spending more time stimulating that development.”

The Town Council/ First Public Budget Meeting is set for Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Moose Hill Council Chambers.

Glenn Douglas
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