July 26, 2012WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro's 2012 operating budget and general fund increases, 0.57 and 2.88 percent respectively, were the lowest in the last six years, according to Town Manager Dave Owen. Those achievements were accomplished with the cooperation of town departments, who were asked to submit budgets of one percent less in their discretionary spending accounts than the year before.
In a memorandum to the Board of Selectmen, Owen outlined a plan for the proposed 2013 budget calling for all departments to maintain their current level of funding. While "continued budgetary restraint is clearly required," Owen wrote that in his opinion "… reduction of programs and services…is not required to meet this situation."
He cited several favorable economic and financial factors in coming to his decision: New Hampshire's unemployment rate of 5.7 percent (much lower than the national average) has improved slightly; the state's downshifting of many costs onto local governments over the last couple of years has already been absorbed by previous budgets and further downshifting is not anticipated; and the town will receive a savings of $60,000 in the cost of worker's compensation next year due to a Primex Premium Holiday.
While town revenues reflect a continued weak growth in building permit fees and other development-related revenues, an increase in new car sales has resulted in higher than projected motor vehicle registration fees.
Demand for welfare services has moderated, and the Town's Health Insurance Advisory Committee is exploring options such as high deductible plans with an employee reimbursement feature that may lead to further savings in health insurance costs.
Owen also said that Finance Director Peter Chamberlin reported a recent offer to lock in oil prices at $2.99 per gallon, significantly less than the $3.34 per gallon the town paid last winter. Chamberlin has opened bids on fuel products to take advantage of the lower prices.
On the expense side, Owen projected that the town "will face major legal expenditures over the next few years due to the litigation concerning the Rapid Infiltration Basins." The town is suing Wright Pierce Engineering, which claimed the system was designed to handle a flow of 600,000 gallons per day or more, yet it is now evident that the design can only adequately handle around 300,000 gallons per day.