DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

May 8, 2014

Derry residents could see tax rate drop

Councilors near end of budget work

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — DERRY — The town tax rate could drop 8 cents, if the Town Council adopts the proposed $36.8 million.

Some final number-crunching still needs to happen, but the bulk of the work is complete. Councilors didn’t do a lot of cutting, trimming just $175,291, Chief Financial Officer Frank Childs said. The cuts to date amount to less than 1 percent of the proposed budget. Final numbers are still subject to change.

The Town Council is expected to vote on the fiscal year 2015 budget May 20.

Right now, the projected town tax rate is $10.31, down from $10.39 last year and the year before, Childs said.

The current municipal budget is $37 million. Budget reductions for next year include $49,090 in health-care reductions and the $175,291 in councilors’ cuts, Childs said.

Some things still haven’t been finalized, including the amount of the veterans tax credit. That was on the agenda for this week’s council meeting.

“Assuming no other changes, the (tax) rate would end up slightly lower than the past two years,” Childs said.

The budget includes a revised six-year capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2015-2020. CIP items total $1.47 million for fiscal year 2015.

Last week, councilors revisited items they flagged during the workshop process.

That list wasn’t long.

They voted to remove a request for a new cemetery lawn mower at a cost of approximately $8,000.

Councilors also voted, 4-3, to eliminate $112,300 for a community development coordinator, including salary, benefits and startup costs.

Councilors Mark Osborne, David Fischer, Al Dimmock and Tom Cardon voted to eliminate that line item; Joshua Bourdon, Phyllis Katsakiores and Michael Fairbanks wanted to fund the position.

Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau had urged councilors to include the position.

“This is about shaping the future of the community for generations to come,” Budreau said in his budget message. “It’s not that spending on economic development is an unwise investment, it’s that we have had bad luck and made ineffective choices.”

Katsakiores said the money should remain in the budget.

“We charged the town administrator to give us a level-funded budget with no tax increase,” she said. “The money is already in the budget; I don’t know what the problem is. When the new town administrator is hired, the money is there.”

Cardon said he supports the position and economic development, but wants the new town administrator to be involved.

“We will do the supplemental appropriation to fund this later,” Cardon said.

But Fairbanks said zero funding the position sends the wrong message.

“We’re making a statement that we’re not funding economic development,” he said.

The council would have to hold a supplemental appropriation vote at a later date if the majority decides to fund the position.

Some residents weren’t happy with the council’s limited cuts.

“We need to cut a little bit deeper,” Marc Flattes said during a public hearing last week. “The fire overtime, cut more, $30,000.”

Janet Fairbanks said she was disappointed councilors didn’t do more.

“Are you proud of that?” she asked during the public hearing.

Embattled Taylor Library dodged another budget bullet. So far, councilors have included the library’s $187,189 budget.

Taylor Library trustee Candace Andrews said budget talks are not always about cost, but about the value of a service.

“And we have no unions, no overtime,” Andrews said. “It’s free for all who live and work and go to school in Derry.”

Others thought differently.

“It’s a redundant service,” Lynn Perkins said. “It needs to close down. It’s a small proportion of the population being served by it.”

Both police and fire departments also survived council challenges to their overtime costs during regular budget workshops.