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Selectmen question "arbitrary" cuts made to proposed operating budget

February 27, 2019
OSSIPEE — With what Selectman Richard Morgan calls "arbitrary cuts" to the operating budget, the annual town meeting warrant is posted. The next step in the six-month annual budget process is voter approval at town meeting March 13.

The town's budget committee held a public hearing Feb. 13 to review the proposed 2019 budget. Those minutes were not available on the town's Web site as of press time, but the final proposed budget looks quite different than the original proposal.

For starters, the committee voted unanimously to cut $136,000 from the operating budget in a move that appears to cap the increase over the 2018 budget at two percent. Selectmen had recommended a budget increase of 4.3 percent. It is the budget committee's recommended $6,005,578 that will be put to a vote at town meeting, and it will be up to the department heads, selectmen, or other attendees to convince voters to make any changes or approve the bottom line as is.

The cuts target the larger Town departments, including $70,000 from the highway department budget, $10,000 from police, $5,000 from recreation, $5,000 from town clerk, $8,000 from the selectmen's office and $30,000 from the transfer station. The committee did vote to recommend all but two of the 20 non-profit agency requests for funding – Carroll County Transit ($3,000) and Ossipee Main Street ($5,000).

The committee went along most of the remaining 22 warrant articles. They voted not to recommend petitioned articles seeking $9,250 for a dog park at Constitution Park and $2,000 for Green Mountain Conservation, $25,000 to add to the sidewalk trust fund, and $60,000 for the construction of a playground in Center Ossipee Village. Morgan said he intends to make a motion at town meeting to change the wording of the playground warrant article. It was incorrectly presented and printed as the entire cost being raised through taxes. Morgan said his motion will correct the funding part, as the selectmen plan to use fund balance, and not new tax dollars, to fund the project.

A warrant article that does not include a dollar figure or budget committee recommendation is the sale of the Sumner Brook Fish Hatchery property. The property includes about five acres and several buildings. The selectmen would like to get the town out of the landlord business, Morgan has said previously, and offer the current tenants, Justin Prunier and Jessica Cole, the first option to buy the property. Town meeting voters will need to approve this deal. And if the current tenants are unable to purchase the property at "fair market value, less the value of improvements made by them over time, the selectmen will sell the property through sealed bid, public auction or through a real estate agent.

Town meeting is Wednesday, March 13, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Ossipee Town Hall. Copies of the seven-page warrant can be found at town hall during normal business hours or on the Town Web site at www.ossipee.org.

Martin Lord Osman
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