By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — It’s budget season for the town’s newest leader.
Town Manager Kevin Smith gave an early look into next year’s town numbers at a Town Council meeting Monday.
Smith offered a preliminary peek into his proposed $28 million general operating budget for fiscal year 2015, something he said was only preliminary, but showed that town departments were already thinking of how to save money.
“(I was also charged) with developing a budget keeping the bottom line of each department within the fiscal year default amount,” he said.
So far, Smith’s number shows a $67,698 savings from that default number of $28,086,186.
Smith said town departments gave input on what their priorities are and how money could be saved.
Next year’s budget may include warrant articles dealing with collective bargaining agreements for both fire and police unions. Voters may also be asked to add money to an existing roadway maintenance fund to help pay for major projects.
There are also capital improvement requests for both town and school district. Top priority projects include a $5 million renovation project for the school district; $2.9 million to renovate and upgrade the David A. Hicks Memorial Central Fire Station; a $125,000 recycling drop-off center project; senior center improvements at a cost of $725,000; and two public works projects.
Other projects farther down on the list include Pettengill Road upgrades, a new SAU building for the school district and Mammoth Road sewer replacement work.
Many of the projects would be bonded and require voter approval at Town Meeting in March.
The Budget Committee has heard early budget details from the police and fire departments.
Police hope to continue to save as much as possible without affecting the level of service offered to the community.
That, according to police Chief William Hart, is why the department spends a lot of time examining its budget every year.
Hart said he is proud of how his department handles its budget. That includes making the process a collaborative effort among management, the union and other administrators.
“Frankly, I think we do an excellent job at managing the budget and by we, I mean the men and women of the department,” Hart said.
As with any town department, many factors drive a budget.
Smith said numbers most likely will change as the budget process continues.
Councilors will host a budget workshop at 8 a.m. Nov. 16, with more discussions set for Nov. 18, Nov. 25 and Dec. 12. A public hearing on the town budget is Dec. 16. The town’s deliberative session is Feb. 8 and voters cast their ballots March 11.
Town Council Chairman John Farrell said early budget numbers sound good, but there is a lot of hard work ahead.
“It’s a good first pass,” he said.