, Derry, New Hampshire

March 13, 2014

Londonderry puts spending freeze into effect

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — The town manager has put a freeze on all nonessential town spending.

The measure, announced by Town Manager Kevin Smith, is being done to help keep budgets under control through the remainder of this fiscal year June 30.

Smith announced the spending freeze at the Town Council meeting March 3, offering an update on where some town budgets were at this point in the year, including those areas that are already over budget.

Last month, Smith told councilors the town had already spent well over its snow budget and that fire overtime costs were also high.

“Not much has changed since then,” Smith said.

So far, he said, the Fire Department has spent $15,000 more than was budgeted this year for overtime and replacement costs.

The main fire budget, though, is only about 0.3 percent higher than last year at this time.

Smith credited fire Chief Darren O’Brien for making adjustments to help mitigate the spending.

The police department is showing only a 0.1 percent hike over last year at this time.

Legal costs in town are 36 percent higher than last year, mainly due to court cases and litigation involving the town’s snarled impact fee situation, Smith said.

At this point in the budget year, Smith said, the town should be running at about 66 percent of its spending. Right now, the number is 71 percent of the budget spent.

Smith said every department head knew they had work to do to keep spending and expenses in check.

“They know they’ve got to do what they need to do,” he said.

Resident Pauline Caron said she was concerned about the fire department and its spending on overtime.

Voters approved a measure in the firefighters contract in 2008 to bring the work week down to 42 hours per week from 48. That could be part of the continuing overtime issue, Caron said.

Since 2008, she said, the town has most likely spent more than $1 million on overtime costs for the fire department.

“Something is broken over there,” Caron said. “It has to be fixed.”

She urged councilors to consider going back to a 48-hour work week.

Town Council Chairman John Farrell said the group is open to all ideas about what to do.

“This council is completely open to all discussions,” he said.

Smith said he would look at the numbers by the end of March and into April to see where the town is with its spending.

“Right now, I feel this is the prudent thing to do going forward,” he said.

He said the community would remain safe and the best services possible would still be available to residents during the spending freeze.