DERRY — The town's budget season is underway with proposed numbers being presented for fiscal year 2022.
Town Administrator David Caron presented his budget to town councilors at a meeting earlier this month, saying the numbers come after a past year of many challenges due to the pandemic.
In his overview to the council, Caron stated the past year was one like no other.
"It was not business as usual," Caron said, adding work at the municipal center was put on a challenging schedule, with town staff reaching high levels of service to customers during many difficult disruptions and uncharted ways of handling things.
That included using an outside tent to receive July's tax payments in a safely distanced way; public safety staff wearing personal protective gear to keep both staff and community members safe; working on unused town fields during sports shutdowns; doing road work during times when traffic numbers were down; approving measures to handle the financial impacts from the pandemic; relaxing some land use requirements to support local dining and entertainment businesses, and approving changes to the town's Revolving Loan Fund regulations for emergency loan support.
Caron also heralded the town's successes during the past year, including the way Derry handled its multiple elections safely.
The town administrator said there are still unknowns ahead.
"As we move forward into fiscal year 2022, we still do not fully understand all potential mid- and long-term impacts to the organizations from the pandemic," he said in his budget statement. "Thus, this budget proposal must remain fluid both during the council's review and after budget adoption."
The council did approve an Expendable Trust of COVID-19 Mitigation, Response and Recovery, with funds being transferred to help provide the town with the flexibility needed to take care of pandemic challenges and lessened revenues coming into the town. The fund currently has about $1.6 million, Caron said.
Also, the recently approved American Rescue Plan will provide money to communities like Derry that can be used for COVID-19-related expenses. Derry expects to receive about $3.3 million from the plan, but that funding isn't included in the fiscal 2022 numbers, Caron said.
Some of Caron's other proposed budget highlights include:
— Restoring a 64th front line position in the Fire Department that had been eliminated in 2015.
— Limiting the tax rate to a $7.25 level authorized by the town's tax cap, approved by voters about 30 years ago.
— Continuing to put TIF, or tax increment financing, districts in place to support continued economic development growth.
— Absorbs a $680,000 increase in retirement system funding.
— Sets aside money to support current and future collective bargaining agreements.
The council has heard presentations from department heads in past weeks, offering their proposed spending plans. That included police Chief Edward Garone presenting his 48th annual budget, a $9.8 million number, and fire Chief Michael Gagnon, offering his $11.4 million bottom-line number. Councilors will consider the numbers and will discuss any flagged items in any of the budget numbers.
A public hearing was scheduled for this week with a final vote expected in early May.