By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — There were plenty of empty seats at the town deliberative session Saturday.
Just 71 of the town’s 15,944 registered voters showed up. That’s less than 1 percent.
Those who did attend the session at Londonderry High School heard details on the town’s proposed $28 million operating budget.
They also listened to presentations about the warrant articles, including a $2.6 million plan for construction, maintenance and operation of newly constructed sewer systems; $180,000 to upgrade the town’s aging highway department garage; and $275,000 to be placed in maintenance trust fund for road replacements and improvements.
The proposed town operating budget for next year is $33,000 under the default budget and a 1.6 percent increase over the current year’s number, Town Manager Kevin Smith.
In addition, voters will consider a new one-year collective bargaining agreement between the town and the police department union, calling for a 1.8 percent cost of living pay increase for fiscal year 2015.
One article drawing much discussion was to ask voters to separate the town clerk/tax collector job into two separate positions.
If that article passes at the polls next month, the town could save approximately $110,000, according to Smith.
“If approved, this article would make the town clerk a part-time position with no benefits and then an appointed tax collector would be dictated by the town manager,” Smith said. “The town clerk would be a limited position doing dog tags and vital statistics, and other work would continue to be absorbed by others in that office.”
A single person now holds the town clerk/tax collector’s job, elected by voters every two years.
Not everyone thought making the job two separate entities was a good idea.
“This would be a disadvantage to all citizens of Londonderry,” resident Pauline Caron said. “I encourage you to vote against this article.”
Mary Soares asked what would happen to the candidates that already filed to run for the town clerk/tax collector job. Town attorney Mike Ramsdell said if the article passed, the person winning that job would serve for a year. At Town Meeting in 2015, a tax collector would be appointed and voters would elect a town clerk.
Resident Bob Saur said the town clerk does more than just vital statistics and issuing dog licenses. He worried about not having the personnel and hours in the town clerk’s office to handle busy elections.
But Smith said the office is staffed well and jobs get done.
“By no means are we not going to have them perform their statutory requirements,” Smith said.
Another article drawing some discussion was a petitioned article to have supervision and management of the Town Forest transferred from the Conservation Commission to the town manager.
That article stemmed from months of discussion over a potential cleanup of the forest area near the Town Common and who would be responsible for the work.
In addition to town business, Londonderry honored retiring town employees and also named its top Citizen and Volunteer of the Year.
Londonderry Trailways’ Bob Rimol took top citizen honors and Caron was named top volunteer in town.