DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

Derry

January 3, 2013

Officials face shortfall as budget season nears

DERRY — Town officials are facing a funding shortfall before budget season even begins.

The town faces increases in state retirement costs, and health care and other contractual obligations for fiscal year 2014.

“(We are) at a net negative of $450,000 before we even start the discussion for next year,” Town Administrator John Anderson said.

The town operates under a tax cap required by the town’s charter that keeps spending in check.

Last year’s approved budget was $45.3 million.

This year, as officials get ready to hear from department heads on what their needs will be for next year, the message is clear — be frugal.

“What programs and services we provide to the community are you prepared not to provide anymore?” Anderson asked town councilors at a meeting Dec. 18.

He said individual departments will be responsible for making their own priorities as to what is important and what they may be able to do without.

“What are we prepared to lose that we currently offer?” Anderson asked.

Council Chairman Brad Benson said even if the town faces a shortfall before the budget work gets going, it’s not a doom-and-gloom situation.

“I think it’s very manageable, based on our experience,” he said.

Benson said the town has a healthy fund balance reserve of more than $13 million that could be put to use if the need is dire.

“It will also leave us some wiggle room below the cap,” he said.

Chief Financial Officer Frank Childs said the town should not expect to gain big revenues next year from new car registrations, a strong revenue source in past years.

“We are not seeing a lot of new vehicles being purchased and registered,” Childs said. “That significantly impacts what we get in revenue. At this point, we don’t see this turning around.”

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