January 11, 2018MEREDITH — The selectmen are in the process of finalizing budget figures going into the budget hearing with some discussions on the use of fund balance and a library position.
Town Manager Phil Warren presented the selectmen with an updated budget sheet during Monday's meeting and said requested changes from the budget workshops were factored in.
According to a recording of the meeting, Warren said with the way the budget is set up now the municipal portion of the tax rate would be $4.90 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The budget would also include $750,000 being used from fund balance to stabilize the tax rate.
Under these conditions, the town's net appropriation would be $9,423,094.
Warren said since he has been there, the town has set a fund balance point as a not to exceed amount. In previous years, they have set the amount to be used from the fund balance but it would end up being lower.
Warren said if the selectmen want to use more or less fund balance he said this is a discussion they should have now so their expectations by the fall are a little clearer. He said in fall they will come back to the board before they set the tax rate with the town's financial figures and ask what expenditures they want to apply.
"As a personal opinion, just about since I've been on this board, we've been borrowing and borrowing,
and I believe this is the first year we've, shall we say, stopped a little bit and been putting a little bit back in," said Selectman Nate Torr. "If we can lessen that amount being taken out, I would be more in favor of that."
Torr suggested maybe putting $500,000 from fund balance in instead. Board chair Ray Moritz said the $750,000 would set the tax rate at $4.90 per $1,000 in valuation, which is a 10 cent cut from the current tax rate of $5. If the amount as reduced to $500,000 that would bring the municipal rate to $5.03 which Moritz said is "pretty close to flat." he said if they stay with that number it will leave the fund balance in a healthier place by October, which would be good with the major projects coming down the road.
Torr said he would prefer they didn't raise the tax rate and stayed with the $5, though Moritz said the projected tax rate at this time last year was $5.22 and ended up being lower. Warren said, however, the reason for this was that the town had done its five year revaluation cycle and the values had changed, which won't be the case this year.
"What we can do is shoot for a combination of a fund balance amount and a tax rate, but come back in the fall and perfect it," Warren said.
He said this is a discussion they can have in the fall and then decide what the right amount of fund balance would be.
Another discussion in the budget process was reclassifying a library position from part time to full time. The town's budget guidance has been to not have any new positions or reclassifications, though Moritz said library employees are technically not town employees and the library is in charge of hiring and firing.
Warren said they set it up so that if the library chooses they can make an amendment from the floor at town meeting for the amount for that reclassification. At that time, someone would have the exact figure ready that would be needed.
Moritz said they felt it was more appropriate that instead of putting in that amount as part of the overall budget they would have the library make a motion to add that amount in.
Warren said he received an email from Administrative Services Director Brenda Vittner saying that the full time salaries in the current budget are for five employees and a motion could be made to put the part time line back to $70,000 after that additional position was removed, though Warren said they will have the updated exact amount ready if that amendment is made.
The budget will next go to a public hearing. The final budget numbers will be voted on at town meeting.