By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — Budget season is underway and town councilors got an early morning start looking at department numbers.
Overtime costs, additional animal control coverage and money for fire training topped the discussion list at a budget workshop Saturday. Councilors spent several hours hearing early numbers from town departments including police, fire, public works and the library.
Town Manager Kevin Smith had charged all departments to keep within the fiscal year 2014 default amount of $28 million or below when planning their budgets.
The police department hopes to continue to run a tight ship, Chief William Hart said, without taking away from its high level of community service.
Both fire and police look ahead to what’s coming to town once major developments go online like Woodmont Commons and the Pettengill Road area. Those two projects alone could add much stress to both departments.
“Moving forward we have challenges,” Hart said. “It’s something we need to be considering right now. (We need to think about) what we’re going to look like in two, five, 10, 20 years.”
Hart’s future wish list includes more school resource officer coverage and more hours for animal control , which now is limited to 16 hours a week.
Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said next year’s budget is tight, but it won’t take away from any services the department provides.
Revenue is up in some areas, including growing ambulance revenue, thanks to an improved relationship with Elliot Hospital.
O’Brien said the town’s fire stations are staffed at a good level, but agreed future development could take a toll on the department’s numbers.
The fire department currently has 46 full-time personnel, O’Brien said.
Fire equipment is in good shape, but $15,000 will eventually be needed to service a ladder truck. Money for personnel training would serve the town well, he said, but those extras might not make next year’s budget.
“We can’t keep the credentials up without training,” he said. “Training needs are very important. It helps the young people train and move forward in their careers.
It is uncertain yet what funding would be available for training next year.
“We’re giving you a good budget,” O’Brien said. “But we’re down to the bare bones.”
Town Council Chairman John Farrell said budget work has been done differently in past years, including many times when items were just cut across the board and services were restored over a period of time.
“Now, we’re playing catch up,” he said. “But we’ve given more responsibility to department heads.”
The council hosts another budget workshop Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. at Moose Hill Council Chambers at the town offices.