, Derry, New Hampshire

May 9, 2013

Derry councilors nearing end of budget road

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Budget season is winding down. The Town Council is hearing final details on some of the numbers for next year.

Members also are taking some heat from residents about what the town is planning to spend.

For several weeks, department heads have appeared before councilors to give details on spending plans for fiscal year 2014. Some items were flagged for more discussion and some departmental budgets were approved easily.

Councilors made cuts in various departments, including overtime budgets in police, fire and public works departments.

They also cut $20,000 from the town’s economic development budget. Councilors did vote to keep Taylor Library’s $176,600 budget intact after Town Administrator John Anderson proposed zero funding the tiny East Derry library next year.

If the proposed budget is approved, municipal property taxes could see a 9-cent increase. That falls 22 cents under the tax cap that is required by the town charter.

Former town councilor Kevin Coyle said Derry’s tax rate is still out of control compared to neighboring towns, even with budget cuts.

“Ours is the highest tax rate of all our surrounding towns,” Coyle said. “Ours is $10.49, Windham is $3.64, Salem $7.06, Chester $5.78. We are double some of our neighbors, even triple. This is nothing to be proud of.”

Coyle commended councilors who made efforts to reduce spending, but scolded others for not doing enough.

“Some of you have made difficult decisions, and some of you made no cuts at all,” he said. “I think you could have done a better job.”

Coyle questioned some spending, including approving a three-year lease for new SUV-style Ford Interceptor models to replace the police department’s current fleet.

“We used to have police cars that were 8, 9 or 10 years old,” Coyle said. “Now, we get them (every three years). This is the year you could have chosen to give us a break, but you chose not to.”

Coyle also said Derry should not spend $20,000 to pay a farmers market director.

“Our market is nice, but it’s not great,” he said. “Do we really want to spend $20,000 on that? Is it nice to have with a $10.49 tax rate?”

Market manager Beverly Ferrante will be paid $21,800 this year.

Janet Fairbanks, also a former town councilor, said the market idea was near and dear to her heart six years ago when she helped hatch the market plan.

Now, she said the market is costing the town too much money.

“This was never meant to be a tax burden to Derry taxpayers — ever,” Fairbanks said.

The Town Council meeting and final budget/CIP vote is set for May 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal center’s third-floor meeting room.